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Well I’m Screwed – DC Number 1 City “where it is most expensive for two parents to raise two children”

by Prince Of Petworth January 12, 2016 at 3:05 pm 52 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

Thanks to all who sent links to the much talked about MarketWatch report:

“Here are the 10 cities where it is most expensive for two parents to raise two children …

1. Washington, D.C.

A family of four needs $106,493 just to get by in Washington — making this city the most expensive place for parents to raise two children. Child care here is particularly pricey, at $31,158 a year, on average — that’s the highest in the country.”

As one who’s second daughter just arrived – please for the love of God click on some of the ads… You can see the rest of the top 10 most expensive cities to raise a family here.

  • Anonamom

    LOL, try being one parent with three kids.

    • ANC

      Nooooo thank you!

    • dandandandandandan

      Haha try 4.
      Kids, when you go for a third child, sometimes you get a 2-for-1 offer you can’t refuse…

  • J Street


  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    The childcare costs in/around DC are just insane.

  • Truxton Thomas

    Two parents with one child is hard enough—can’t imagine!

    • Truxton Thomas

      Meant to respond Anonamom…

  • pb1

    You could always become the Marque of Morristown: Morristown, Tennessee, came in as the cheapest, at $49,114

    • Quotia Zelda

      Yeah, I’ve been to Morristown on more than one occasion. I’m not sure you could pay me enough to go back.

  • petworther

    This is nonsense, all of the journalists reporting on this are complete idiots who did not actually look at the data upon which the index is based.
    The only reason DC shows up as the most expensive is because in the Economic Policy Institute data this is based on DC is calculated as the district alone with MD suburbs and VA suburbs listed as separate units. NY, SF, and LA are all listed together with their surrounding suburbs. Thus DC looks more expensive because it only includes the most expensive part of the city.
    Anyone even vaguely familiar with American cities should have figured something was up with these numbers and looked at them in greater detail. But I guess good journalism doesn’t generate web hits.

    • soozles

      It looks to me like the index does separate out several of NYC’s suburbs, such as Nassau Co., Westchester, Stamford, etc.

    • Anonamom

      Since this particular article includes things like taxes, I can see why DC’s does not include the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Having said that, I don’t think the number would go down much if you did include the close-in suburbs.

      • petworther

        Other metro areas have variable tax rates as well due to city income taxes, special assessment districts, etc. In any case the point of the index is to compare areas and since this makes them incomparable there’s no good justification. The authors did this because it was easier given the way the input data was structured, not for any methodological reason.
        Don’t forget that in addition to Arlington and Bethesda the suburbs also include College Park, Mt Ranier, and Langley Park. All of which have a much higher density than the richer suburbs. Including burbs definitely brings down average costs.

      • petworther

        As evidence of the second claim above, note that according to the budget calculater a family of 4 in “Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC” needs only 79,330 and a family of 4 in “Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC” needs 82,284.

      • Timebomb

        Because DC’s taxes are considerably higher? Which taxes? If you look at DC income taxes vs. MD/VA state income taxes, you’ll see DC is slightly higher for some middle-class folks, but that’s because MD and VA both have local taxes in many areas as well.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t read the thing carefully, but I seem to remember something about the childcare costs being based on statewide averages. I would imagine if you’re averaging over rural and urban areas, this would push childcare costs up in rural areas and down in urban areas, and you could end up with perverse results like DC having the highest childcare costs since it has no rural areas averaged in.

  • anon

    we do it on much less. yes if you are not a smart consumer or careful… this is what it costs. people convince themselves they ‘need’ way more to get by than they actually do.

    • Anonamom

      I agree with you on this one. Lifestyle counts for a lot.

    • Curious George

      Please please explain how you do it! Nanny share? Au pair? How do you make it work for a more reasonable cost?

      • curious too

        yes, please share some thoughts/tips for those considering parenthood and hoping to stay in the District!

        • Anonymom

          If one of you earns very little compared to the other, have that person be a stay at home parent. Makes life more sane. You have the time to do all the other thrifty stuff, like thrift store shop for kids clothes, make healthy food from scratch, etc.

          • The person who ends up leaving the job market has lifelong implications. It’s incredibly difficult to re-enter the labor force. We considered it, but 1) mental health is important, and many women go batty staying home and 2) things like retirement contributions from your job, if you have them, aren’t nothing. My father said as long as you have $1 more, be it in a paycheck or a benefit, over childcare, it’s worth it to work in the long run. Gaps in employment are hard to explain even if it’s innocent and worthwhile to you when 15 other people want your job. So it’s not really as cut and dry, even though it should be.

  • Traveler

    Yeah… this is a huge concern for when/if we have kids.
    And I clicked on all the ads!

  • Mars

    The cost of raising kids in the city IS ridiculous. Most people I know pay more than $20k a year per child just for daycare! Plus, it’s super expensive to buy a place large enough to raise 2 kids. Even in areas like Petworth and Brookland where the schools aren’t the best. And then you add in the costs of groceries, taxes, after school camps and activities- it’s insane. We’d love to have another kid, but we simply can’t afford it.

    But still, it beats living in the burbs. Call me crazy, but I love my city and would never even think of living in Reston, Rockville, or anywhere else. Even with the outrageous prices, crime, mediocre schools, random terrorist threats, and crappy Metro, it’s still an awesome place to live and raise kids.

    • “Even with the outrageous prices, crime, mediocre schools, random terrorist threats, and crappy Metro, it’s still an awesome place to live and raise kids.” Our new motto!! :)

    • Anonamom

      It gets easier the older they get. With three school-aged children, living in DC, with my kids going to a school that has free after care, I currently pay about $2000 a year for childcare. This include Summer Camps (Always DPR and I have taken advantage of free summer school every year my kids have been old enough for it). Moving to Maryland, I will be paying around $800 for before and after care for each of them per month, and I will probably end up spending at least $6000 in summer camps for the three of them. So, at least in my case, being in the city is much cheaper than being in the ‘burbs.

      • Yes! Don’t forget free preschool/prek! There’s still aftercare costs, but way less than daycare.

        • There are, not there’s. I assume it’s ok to correct my own grammar?

          • womp

            I love you. Too many people forget contractions still follow subject-verb agreement rules.

      • anon

        several counties in VA close to DC don’t even have full day kinder. in DC families can enroll in full day preschool at age 2.5/ 3 free! just from the financial side of things this is a big support to lots of families in the district. shaves time off those daycare costs.
        other free/ low cost DC perks: DPR camps/ programing, free gyms, pools, free transport for DC students
        breastfeeding long term is helpful , and only shopping second hand is a must. no your kids do not need new clothing…. and frankly neither do you. You also do not need as much space as you think you do to have kids. tiny living…
        know your groceries… organic milk is way more at safeway than giant etc…
        it goes on and on but all adds up.

    • petworther

      Child care in DC is definitely expensive but this survey wildly overstates how expensive it is relative to other places. The childcare costs are at the state level, so while the DC child care cost is the average within the district child care costs in NYC or LA are averaged in with THE ENTIRE STATE. Same with VA and MD suburbs of DC.

  • Irving Streete

    I always found illegal aliens provided a cost-effective alternative to pricey daycare. And we stumbled into a lovely little pre-school that was –it was suggested at some point — part of the Head Start program –that was even cheaper than illegal nannies and (if I read their website right) they’re still charging less than six grand a year. It’s probable that neither of my kids got into Ivy League colleges and prestigious grad programs because they went to pre-K with immigrant kids instead of yuppie puppies and without whatever latest whizbang devices the master-degreed learning professionals at the $20K tadpole learning academies in better neighborhoods would have foisted on them. But I figured that growing up white and affluent in America is enough of an advantage as it is.

    • Anonamom

      LOL…. this kinda reminds me of an email that went out on a listserv today about the “REAL” socio-economic breakdown of local schools in and around Petworth/Columbia Heights/Parkville. Basically the person could have just said “your kids aren’t going to go to school with as many poor people as you think – don’t worry!”

      • Curious George

        Please share!

        • Irving Streete

          Foundry Methodist. Hillary’s church. Every year the kids did a very cute “concert” for the congregation (coupled with a fundraising plea) and one year my younger sang for President and Mrs. Clinton. Their other funder was one Sunday in spring all the parents would cook their native cuisine and congregants would buy their Sunday brunch from us. I always felt bad being a boring old American, but I always ate well.
          It’s been 20 years, mind you, so I don;t know what’s up these days.

      • Irving Streete

        My kids were definitely going to school with kids from a different demographic, though probably no one was actually on welfare. The older was actually the only white kid and almost the only child of non-immigrants in the school. One kid’s dad used to panhandle in front of the 17th Street Safeway (his social worker mom had apparently fallen for him while trying to help in a professional capacity). To be clear, it was really a great crowd of parents, teachers and kids, perhaps because it was a generation of parents that felt more fortunate than entitled. But, like I said, no Harvard. ;)

    • smgc

      “illegal aliens”? show an ounce of respect for the women who *care for your children* and at least refer to them as “undocumented.”

      nohumanbeingisillegal dot com

      • textdoc

        “Undocumented” is a pretty recent change as far as preferred terminology goes. Cut Irving Streete some slack.

      • dcd

        Really? All you took from Irving Streete’s post is the need to criticize his word choice? Let me guess – you’re a millennial?

  • Todd

    This is absolutely the only reason, i rented my DC rowhouse and moved to Vermont. Too bad, but it really is becoming a place for mostly singles even if you already have a home in the city. You can do it and lots of my friends do, but i just don’t want the stress of falling behind more each month. T

  • Llama

    Live in #1, born in #2. Who knew?

  • J used to be in DC

    Lifestyle does matter but a lot of it is sacrificing commute for the sake of less expensive childcare and housing so ultimately you are valuing your time as free. Working 8.5hrs a day I already never saw my kid and that was depressing and not why I had a child. Childcare even somewhat convenient I many jobs is difficult if you live in the city and housing once you want more than 1 bedroom is awful. It’s a shame. I would have liked to stay but I couldn’t fathom having to be a genius to figure out school lotteries.

    • neighbor

      I feel so similar. I hope you found a great situation wherever you landed!

  • Terry Lynch

    I am thankful I moved here in 1977 and raised 2 daughters here who went to DC Public Schools. I spent funds for them to have summer educational / art / athletic activities but had no tuition bills until college. They matriculated at Williams College and Temple University coming out of DCPS. They are doing very well. It can be done and can be done on a budget.

  • Philippe Lecheval

    Here’s an idea: consider not having kids. It’s a decision I don’t regret one bit. It’s not like there’s a global population shortage :-)

  • Neighbor

    And try adding over $125k of student loans on top of daycare, mortgage! We will never, ever be able to buy a house around here. Our plan is to move away in a few years, which makes me sad because I grew up here, my parents + friends are here, and I have a job I like, but there’s no place for us to live they way we’d like to live (with a little more space and no crazy commute).

    • This is the most depressing part – or, people who want to have kids/own a home but can’t because of student loan debt.

  • JP

    I totally agree with this article. I arrived at $75K per person (including children) to justify living in the DC area. Anything less and you will either be living like a poor person or will have a pathetic savings rate. A family of 4 with a household income of under $300K will be better off living just about anywhere else in the country.

    Same rule applies for singles and married couples. Earning less than $75K? Pack a suitcase and go sell pineapples in Hawaii or do the same job in a cheaper city.

  • Nonsense

    I can’t tell whether this calculator adjusts for the fact that in DC, there are a lot of double-income households, which means that a lot more people pay the formal market for childcare than in areas where one parent is more likely to stay at home. I think this is probably a huge factor in the difference in average childcare costs. The good news is that means that average income in DC is higher because of these two-income households.

  • baz

    31K for “childcare”???
    my son goes to VCU for $9K a year tuition…

    • ECfromDC

      I went to VCU …. don’t remember it being that cheap (even with FAFSA as a DC resident and a few small grants).

  • ECfromDC

    D.C. is pricey enough alone or w/ a partner and lucky for me I have no kids and don’t want any.
    Yay birth control!


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