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San Francisco Is the Most Expensive City in the U.S. to Raise a Child—It Costs $15,000 More Than Average

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It's expensive to live in San Francisco — and even more costly to raise your kids there.

The average annual cost of raising a child in the Bay Area is nearly double what Americans typically pay, according to an analysis of 381 cities by financial advice platform SmartAsset.

In SF, it costs an average of $35,647 per year to raise a single child, making it the most expensive place in the U.S. to start a family, SmartAsset reports.

That's well above the overall U.S. average of $20,813 per year, and almost three times as much as the lowest-ranked city of Morristown, Tennessee, where child-raising costs are $14,577 annually.

Put another way, the cost raising of a single child in San Francisco is slightly less than what you'd earn working full-time for $18.07 an hour, which will be the city's new minimum wage as of July 2023.

Here's a look at the 15 most expensive places to raise a child, based on annual cost:

  1. San Francisco Bay Area, Calif.: $35,647
  2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.: $33,877
  3. San Jose, Calif.: $33,228
  4. Barnstable Town, Mass.: $33,184
  5. Boston: $32,307
  6. Ann Arbor, Mich.: $31,670
  7. Trenton-Princeton, N.J.: $31,314
  8. Kalamazoo, Mich.: $30,786
  9. Napa, Calif.: $30,412
  10. Santa Rosa-Petaluma, Calif.: $29,544
  11. Boulder, Colo.: $29,486
  12. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.: $29,371
  13. Greater Los Angeles Area: $29,131
  14. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Mich.: $28,917
  15. San Diego: $28,745

These totals reflect extra spending for a two-adult household with one child compared with a childless household with two adults. The costs include food, housing, child care, health care and transportation expenses, based on 2022 data from MIT's Living Wage Calculator.

A major driver of total costs is housing, which ranges from just over $1,200 to nearly $13,000 annually, depending on where you live.

Unsurprisingly, cities in states with high housing costs like California and New York also have high child-care costs. California sticks out in particular, with eight cities in the top 15 rankings for places where it's most expensive to raise a child.

But there are some surprises, too: Despite relatively low housing costs, cities in Michigan are among the most expensive places in the U.S. to raise a child, with Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Detroit ranked in the top 15.

This largely reflects a state-wide child-care shortage that has persisted since the beginning of the pandemic. A lot of it has to do with employee retention, as child-care workers typically earn low pay with minimal benefits.

And despite the low pay, the cost of training new child-care employees to meet regulatory standards is high, which has made operating costs for child-care centers more expensive.

In contrast, seven of the 15 most affordable cities to raise a child can be found in South Carolina. Charleston, Greenville, Columbia and Hilton Head are amongst the least expensive, with average annual costs around or below $16,000, according to SmartAsset.

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