Child-rearing isn’t just expensive, it’s individual

Average numbers aren’t as helpful as a specific focus — the real data’s in the details.

An article in The Toronto Star this week challenged the federal government to undergo detailed research on how much it costs to raise a child in Canada before pledging to end child poverty or helping middle-class families.

The value of this research wouldn’t just be in finding out how much it costs to raise a child in Canada — the value is also in pushing politicians to do their homework before making blanket promises.

Especially when it comes to the cost of raising a child, following a trail of expenses is a good way to see where the holes are. It can help Canadian politicians see exactly where resources aren’t there to meet needs.

That being said, looking for the perfect average cost of childrearing in Canada can gloss over the nuances.

On the surface, an average number doesn’t account for Canada’s most vulnerable communities. For instance, it doesn’t account for the disproportionate difficulty to raise a child in Canada’s Indigenous communities, in low-income immigrant families or in the foster care system. Nor does it account for vast differences in region.

Setting out to put a label on how much it costs to raise a child — or the money it takes to best raise a child — is an ambitious task and one that could have a lot of consequences if gotten wrong. So much so that it may need to be narrowed and specified in scope before it’s feasible.

That’s not to say the research isn’t valuable. If it’s conducted, it could benefit from being more specific — perhaps a breakdown of costs in different contexts, whether they’re geographical, ethnic, or socio-economic.

Access to information, if the research is conducted properly, is never a bad thing. But for the research to be as valuable and encompassing and possible, it needs to take into account all the nuances of childrearing in Canada.

Journal Editorial Board

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