The New Gender Question: Are Boys or Girls More Expensive?

Over the last several weeks, my son has somehow managed to tear holes in the knees of every single pair of pants he has.

I’m not sure how this happened, only that’s he’s a rough-and-tumble 5-year-old boy who likes to dash across the playroom on his knees to get another truck to play with and engage in long goodbye hugs with his friends that often resemble a wrestling match.

I can’t sew, so repairing the pants is out of the question (they are beyond repair anyway). And iron-on patches, which were big when I was a kid in the 70s, are still around, but they seem to be more decorative (or, oddly, political) rather than practical. So I’m now faced with having to buy my son a whole new set of pants. And that of course costs money. (Holly Korus, any advice on how to get around this?)

That got me wondering: Will my son’s propensity for destroying his clothes make him more expensive to raise than his baby sister? Or will my daughter, for whatever reason, cost more?

It turns out this question of which gender costs more to raise has been studied—at least twice. And each study came up with a different answer.

In 2010, a study in Britain determined that girls will cost parents about $219 more per year to raise than boys—or roughly $2,815 more between the ages of 5 and 18. The study attributed the higher cost to four factors: girls have more expensive hobbies (such as ballet and horseback riding), spend more on clothing and accessories, have more expensive birthday parties, and that their parents spend more on driving lessons and on their daughter’s first cars. Interestingly, the one area boys lead the way was Christmas: in Britain, parents apparently spend more money on their sons at Christmas than on their daughters.

A study in 2008, however—also from Britain—found that boys are more expensive to raise. It also found the difference in cost between raising boys and girls much sharper than the 2010 study, with boys costing a whopping $10,892 more between the ages of 4 and 18. The study found that boys spent more on clothes and hobbies—the exact opposite of the later study—as well as on technology and “after school activities.” Daughters cost more when it came to accessories, toiletries and—no surprise—shoes.

Of course, these studies were done in Britain, where the cultural norms are different than ours. They also stick to pretty rigid gender stereotypes: girls like ballet and makeup, boys like video games. As we know, the reality is usually a lot different, so it’s hard to take studies like these too seriously (especially when they are seriously conflicting). Besides, what does it really matter? Raising children—boys or girls—is expensive, period. So what’s a few hundred or thousand dollars more?

Still, I’m curious to know from parents who have both boys and girls: do you think one is more costly to raise than the other? If so, why?

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  1. I think it depends on the parents, really. Within any parameters there are choices, and girl or boy – parents can make it expensive or affordable.

  2. My daughter has never cared for expensive things, and shows no sign of doing so. My son, on the other hand, started ordering sushi a la carte at the age of 4 (we put a stop to that) and for many years had a fondness for Abercrombie. But lately he has been shopping with his friends at second hand stores–he bought his current winter jacket, used, for $4. So I guess the jury is still out.

  3. This is the same problem I am having. I read somewhere that Sears sells jeans so tough that if the child goes through the knees before he or she out grows them they give you a new pair.

    I’m bringing back the patched knee trend from the 70″s.

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