Debunking Fraser Institute’s The Cost of Raising Children

A new report by the Fraser Institute claims the cost of raising a child is dramatically lower than many previous studies have found. The report concludes that raising children costs families $3000 to $4500 per year. Previous studies, including 2004 research by Manitoba Agriculture, found that raising a child costs up to three times as much.

The purpose of the Fraser Institute report is unabashedly ideological: to counter the efforts of “the social welfare community, a broad coalition of public service workers, social activists, academics, and many journalists [who] actively lobby the state for more resources for families with children.” Indeed, the report concludes, “The attempt to measure the cost of children is laden with political implications. This is clearly not simply a scientific exercise.”

So what is the Fraser Institute’s political project? By presenting as low a figure as possible the Fraser Institute hopes to find evidence that a wide range of family assistance programs for low and middle-income families, from child tax credits to EIA rates for families can and should be cut to an absolute minimum. Secondly, they seek to normalize the two-parent, home-owning family, while presenting all other family structures as exceptions.

The evidence the report cites for their low-balled figure is far from convincing. Excluded from their estimates are many of the basic necessities families recognise as essential. Specifically, childcare and housing costs are assumed to be zero, while additional transportation costs are minimized. In their cost estimates, the authors of the report reduce family budgets in all areas to a survival minimum, concluding that any other expenses would be mere luxuries for Canadian children: “money for music lessons, a trip to Disney World, more expensive clothing, more elaborate toys and games, and more educational resources” are things that rich parents may provide, but not things that children of working poor, or middle-income families deserve.

It is a sad fact that many families are unable to afford adequate, quality housing for their family size. Many low-income families have to rely on informal and sometimes inadequate daycare options. Many low-income families do survive spending $3000 or even less on their children. The evidence however, is that poverty is an important determinant of health. Children raised on a bare minimum will have fewer educational opportunities and are more likely to be trapped in lifelong cycles of poverty. The goal of social policy should be to provide a basis for raising the opportunities for such families, not to entrench existing poverty as an ideal.

Update:

Another great analysis by the Wellesley Institute: Raising a child is cheap and cheerful, as long as mom stays at home

9 Comments

Filed under economic well-being, health, housing, inequality, neoliberalism, poverty, social exclusion

9 responses to “Debunking Fraser Institute’s The Cost of Raising Children

  1. They were exposed on the day of their latest press release as highly paid hypocrites by an Ottawa Citizen blogger, who noticed in a U.S. tax return a dozen Fraser Institute staff members are compensated in the comfortable six figures for their tireless market proselytizing.

    http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/djclimenhaga/2013/04/never-mind-details-fraser-institutes-leader-press-release-produc

    But then, the Fraser Institute’s job isn’t really to provide honest comparisons. As has been said in this space before, its “researchers” are nothing more than full-time propagandists and unregistered lobbyists, paid to produce this nonsense and pass it off as legitimate, peer-reviewed research. Thanks again to their friends in the federal government, they are bankrolled by all of us through the organization’s charitable status while its many technically prohibited political activities are winked at by the thoroughly politicized Canada Revenue Agency.

    The Fraser Institute purports to be a “think tank” — or, as it risibly puts it on its website, “Canada’s leading public policy think tank.”

    In fact, as noted above, about the only category in which it can honestly claim to be a Canadian leader is in the production of press releases.

  2. LDM

    The problem here is in the word ‘cost.’ It would perhaps be more helpful to view child care as having equivalent dollar ‘value.’

    I’m a stay at home mom, have been for many years. I have 2 university degrees, BA & MA. For starters, no matter what my education level, the value of having a child’s parent provide full time care and input from breakfast to bedtime on everything from education to manners, is beyond estimation.

    Secondly, if i were to put a dollar value on my time as a professionally trained person spent working with my kids from babyhood thru high school, the dollar amount would add up to $4000 a year.

    While child care hasn’t cost our family money, it has had huge value. I think that’s the distinction that the study omits.

    • LDM

      * 3rd last line – more than $4000 a year

    • I do not disagree with the ‘value’ of having a stay at home parent in some cases, especially a case like yours where you are educated and it sounds like you absolutely had a choice about whether or not to stay home. However, viewing exclusively the ‘value’ of having a stay at home parent and ignoring the cost is a luxury few people can afford. In addition, the Fraser Insitute taking the position that childcare doesn’t need to be factored in because most families do not require childcare is dishonest and dangerous.

      The fact is that low income and middle income families often require two incomes (where two parents are present), and for one parent to stay at home the cost of childcare goes far beyond the child’s actual physical needs – there are lost wages to consider as well. For some families, it makes more sense for the one parent to stay home because their wages would be eaten by adequate childcare anyway. For other families, there is no choice, any income to be earned by one or two parents HAS to be earned, and if adequate childcare is unaffordable, their children may end up in the hands of inadequate (to put it nicely) caregivers.

      Looking at only the value is a privileged perspectives that ignores the very real costs – both to the children and the finances.

  3. I don’t quite understand why their nonsense even gets reported on.

  4. OOPs…. Out-Of-Pocket expenses can only be held at this level on the assumption that a healthy, accident-free child can access public health, public education and public parks and recreation. Furthermore, no-cost labour of parents and coaches and community/civil society is not assigned — yet these inputs are the essence of raising the next generation.

  5. Pingback: Still Insufficient: Child Care in Canada

  6. riksaga

    The issue seems to be about who carries the cost of child care and what level of funding is acceptable. The current developmental quality of out-of-home daycare is the same as parental in home daycare. Therefore there is no benefit to me the tax payer to fund out-of-home daycare.

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