Are sons more expensive than daughters? A parenting debate (2023)

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Who will take a bigger bite out of your budget: your son or your daughter?

While many parents have their opinions, competing surveys came to different conclusions. In a survey of more than 500 parents by financial resource site MoneyTips released exclusively to MarketWatch, parents say it’s the girls that cost you more. They estimate it costs, on average, an additional $2,160 a year to raise a daughter versus a son through age 18. Parents in a survey by British site also say that raising a daughter is costlier, though they estimate it at only $200 extra per year.

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One big reason it may cost more to raise girls is that their clothing costs more. A study published by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in 2015 found that, on average, girl’s clothing cost 4% more than boy’s clothing, though in some categories (children’s shirts, 13% more; children’s jeans 8% more; and baby pants 9% more), the discrepancy was even more significant.

Toys targeted to girls are also more expensive, by an average of about 7%. The survey found that nearly identical items — one colored pink and one red or blue — could be nearly double the price simply because they were pink. Girls’ haircuts also tend to cost more than boys, research shows, and girls may buy things like makeup that many boys do not.

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But other research finds that boys cost more. A survey of 1,000 parents by British bank Halifax Bank found that boys cost an average of roughly $1,700 per year more to raise than girls through the age of 11, a fact they attribute in part to the fact that boys put a lot of “wear and tear” on their clothes and sports equipment, which often need replacing.

Experts say there are other reasons boys may cost more. Parenting blogger Cherie Corso notes that boys may eat more than girls and that some play more sports than girls and attend more sporting events, both of which are costly. Indeed, in the MoneyTips survey, parents said that was one area they spent more on their sons than daughters. (Though, in many cases now, girls play just as many sports as boys — some of them more expensive — and go to just as many sporting events.)

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Later life, boys tend to be more expensive. After age 18, sons are more likely to move back home and more likely to get financial help from their parents, research shows.

Whether you have a son, daughter or both, one thing is clear: It’s extremely pricey to raise a child in America. Government data shows that it costs the average family $245,340 to raise a child through the age of 17, and more if they live in the urban Northeast or urban West. If you pay for college, your bill may go far higher: The average price for a four-year, public, in-state school is around $19,500 a year, including tuition, fees and room and board.

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However, parents can save money if they’re savvy. Kimberly Palmer, the author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family,” says that parents of daughters, for example, can often “easily avoid buying pink and instead buy your daughter a more neutral color, which not only makes it easier for your son to use but also ensures she won’t grow out of it when she gets past the ‘princess’ phase.” (Yes, she may hate you for a while for doing so.) Experts also say you should look to buy things like pricey sports gear or music instruments — especially for activities you aren’t sure your kids with stick with — used or even rent them.


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