If you had to guess, how much do you think it costs to raise a child from birth to age 17? Data scientists have weighed in with the American average, and it may surprise you. They say it costs an average of $233,610.

This number comes from data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To see how your estimated costs stack up, check out Money.CNN.com's interactive cost calculator here.

You can even select your child's birth year, your region, and your rough income level (low, middle, or high). The chart will adjust the standard figure of $233,610 based on your specific input.

Why Does It Cost So Much to Raise a Child?

This analysis breaks the cost down into five specific groups:

  • Child care/education
  • Healthcare
  • Clothing/misc
  • Food
  • Housing/transportation

Not surprisingly, the biggest expense out of these is housing and transportation. The study authors claim these expenses add up to more than $5,000 per year alone, each year of your child's life. The other categories are where you have some "wiggle" room. You may or may not spend as much as the average American on child care, for example, or clothing.

It's Your Turn: Is This Number Accurate?

When the results of this survey were published, many people disagreed strongly with the idea that it costs this much money to raise a child. They say things like, "Housing shouldn't count since you have to pay for housing for yourself no matter what." But chances are, if you have three kids, you're renting a larger apartment or buying a bigger house than you would if you didn't have kids at all. So there's an argument for each side in terms of cost.

Life Insurance Takes the Place of Tough Decisions

No matter what you think about that $233,610 figure, it does show one thing: raising a family is expensive. It costs much more than you think, spread out over time in a way that you might not realize at first. That's why life insurance is so important. It can give your spouse the ability to keep paying the bills if something happens to you. For example, where would he or she get the rest of that $230,00+ if you died when your child was five years old?

If you already have life insurance, you know exactly where that money is coming from. Your spouse never has to worry about things like whether going back to work outweighs the cost of day care. He or she can make choices based on what helps your children, not on how many bill collectors are knocking on the door. That's reason enough to invest in your family's future.

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