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Originally published Friday, June 15, 2012 at 6:45 PM

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What price happiness? If it's a child, plan on spending $234,900

Children are an increasingly expensive proposition, with expenses up 3.5 percent last year from 2010, according to an annual report from the Department of Agriculture.

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See the full report:

www.cnpp.usda.gov

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Children: They bring you untold joy and hope for the future. They also cost $234,900 each to rear. And that doesn't include college.

Children are an increasingly expensive proposition, with expenses up 3.5 percent last year from 2010, according to an annual report from the Department of Agriculture. Families living in the urban Northeast tend to pay the most, followed by those in the urban West and urban Midwest. The lowest costs can be found in the urban South and rural areas.

As an aside, it's kind of strange a government agency that usually concerns itself with the price of corn and salmonella outbreaks has studied child-rearing costs since 1960, when the estimate was a little more than $25,000 for middle-income families ($191,720 today, when adjusted for inflation). But the numbers are key to courts and state governments, which use them to determine child-support guidelines and foster-care payments.

To bring up a child from birth to age 17, not counting the cost of pregnancy, involves housing, food, education, clothing, transportation, health care and more.

Housing is the single largest expense, averaging about $70,500, or 30 percent of the total cost. Housing also was the largest expense in 1960, but child-care costs — negligible 50 years ago — are now No. 2 as more moms work outside the home.

On a yearly basis, parents can expect to pay $12,290 to $14,320 keeping a child clothed, fed and housed, depending on the youngster's age. (For what it's worth, the first year owning a large dog, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, is estimated to be $1,843.)

Of course, the cost of parenting varies, based on a variety of factors — income levels, geography, family size and more.

A family earning less than $59,410 a year will shell out $169,080 on each child. Middle-income moms and dads spend $234,900. Wealthier families earning $102,870 or more will devote $389,670 to each offspring.

Still, that's less than half the cost of a Porsche 918 Spyder.

Having more children means less cost per child because siblings share bedrooms, clothing and toys while parents buy in bulk and reap group discounts. Families with three or more children spend 22 percent less on each child than parents with a brood of two or fewer.

Maybe that's part of the rationale for the Duggars or "Octomom" Nadya Suleman.

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