Paul Jacob

My dad was trained as an account. So, why didn’t he just do the math?

According to the Department of Agriculture, it costs those American families categorized by Uncle Sam as “middle income” a whopping $234,900 to rear a child from birth to age 18. Families with household incomes of less than $59,000 supposedly spend $169,080 per kiddo; wealthier families (those earning more than $102,870 per annum) will fork out $389,670 per heir.

Wow. Mom and Dad had six kids. That’s almost $1.5 million.

Apparently the price tag has been greatly inflated since my parents’ day. Which naturally conjures up the next question: how have my wife and I financed our three?

It gets worse. These sticker shock numbers don’t even include the cost of pre-natal care, the birth itself or, on the back-end, putting the youngsters through college. And remember, college costs have increased ten-fold from when I went to school. Add another $50,000 to $80,000 to child-rearing if college costs are included . . . and the student chooses a less expensive university.

Of course, birthing in bulk creates some economy of scale. “Families with three or more children,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “spend 22 percent less on each child than parents with two or fewer.”

Be thankful, of course, that these are government statistics, which must be ingested with a healthy skepticism or, better yet, can be tossed out altogether. (By the way, since children are reared and not raised, why on earth is the Department of Agriculture compiling such information?) Buried in the studies, I’m sure, are considerations of public expense per child and private expense. Since my wife and I home-schooled our daughters, most of their cost, in dollars and cents, was borne entirely by their parents, not by taxpaying others. As it should be. (Call me old-fashioned. Or even a radical. I can stand it.)

What I’m most thankful about, however, is that my dad was more Dad than Accountant. He and my mom, like my wife and me, didn’t use a calculator in deciding to have a family. (Let hormones be hormones.)

It is amazing how affordable children are once they’re here. And how unfathomable life would then be without them.

Usually this column is all about politics, but celebrating Father’s Day, recognizing my own father, I consider how different fatherhood is from politician-hoods. Sure, there’s George Washington, dubbed the “father of our country,” but he seems the exception that proves the rule.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.