A new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds the average cost for raising a child in New Jersey is now more than a quarter of a million dollars.

The Expenditures on Children by Families report finds the average Garden State family will need $253,770, compared to $233,610 for the average U.S. family.

The report finds the average family will wind up spending 29 percent of the amount needed to raise a child on housing, followed by food at 18 percent, childcare at 16 percent, transportation at 15 percent and health care at 9 percent.

Clothing costs make up about 6 percent of what a family will spend, and 7 percent will be spent on miscellaneous necessities.

The cost of higher education and pregnancy is not included in the total.

Cel Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, is not surprised the total is so high.

“New Jersey is a very expensive state to live in and especially to raise a child. For example, New Jersey has among the highest housing costs in the country,” she said.

“And many families in New Jersey are paying a significant portion of their income on the basics, food and rent.”

She pointed out over 65 percent of families with children under the age of 5 in New Jersey are in the workforce, which means their kids have to be cared for somehow, and child care costs are high.

“For an infant the average cost is over $11,000 a year, and for a preschooler it’s around $9,500 a year. That’s a considerable cost and you’re talking about 5 years of childcare before a child is eligible for school,” she said.

Zalkind acknowledged raising a child in a large family may be a little less expensive because housing costs are spread out and clothing can be handed down. But, she pointed out, “when you look at significant costs like childcare ... if you have five children, that’s five times the cost. There’s no discount.”

When it comes to social service programs offered by the state to help families struggling to make ends meet, Zalkind said New Jersey has a reasonably strong system that supports low income families.

“But I do believe middle-income families struggle a lot, without any kind of assistance. The cost of childcare can be very high,” she said

“And an important issue to keep in mind is quality. A parent wants to make sure their child is in safe, high quality child care so they can work without worrying,” she said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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