According to a study conducted last year by British website LoveMoney.com, an extra X chromosome can be costly.
The study results showed it cost about $3,200* more to raise a daughter than a son—blaming the disparity on girls having more expensive hobbies and being more vain by nature.
Then we found a conflicting 2008 study claiming that it costs over $11,000 more to raise a boy.
The problem is that there's no large-scale, academic research to make the final call (the USDA, which conducts its own annual study, clued us in to the fact that population research in the developed world is rarely segregated by gender).
So, we did the next best thing: We asked, you, our readers.
The Girl/Boy Divide
Based on personal experience, 72% of over 350 respondents said that raising a daughter is more expensive.
On Facebook, reader Christina Y. said: “In our experience, our only daughter has been more costly than our boys by far.” Jennifer L., who has three daughters and a son, agreed: “Girls cost more for sure. But boys do like more expensive toys.”
Overwhelmingly, these differences were chalked up to the disparity in male and female hobbies and tastes. For example, girls have expensive hobbies (think dance lessons or gymnastics), but boys like costlier technological toys. The expenses apparently balance out somewhat as the children get older, when boys gravitate toward expensive sports equipment.
Boys vs. Girls
Which sex do you think is more expensive to raise—boys or girls?
Tanya K. corroborates: "My nearly 15-year-old and 12-year-old daughters have an incessant desire to go shopping and purchase clothing, shoes and any other cute stuff they see. I can't blame them as they work hard at school and like to look nice, but spending for them far outweighs spending for my son!"
Obviously, we won’t convince our kids that they should forgo toys and birthday parties (“but you’re cementing gender norms!”). No matter the gender of our children, the most important thing is to make sure we’re spending on activities and hobbies that truly interest them and make them happy.
How Do We Know Which Are the Most Meaningful Investments?
We spoke with Laurie Gray, founder of Socratic Parenting, and Irene Shere, founder and director of The Early Childhood Consultation Center and iBlankie.com for tips to make your spending the most meaningful.
1. Be Open to Your Child’s Ideas
When your kids come home with a request to participate in a new activity or to own a new toy, Gray advises a response like, "That sounds very interesting. Tell me more about that." While your child might not be able to provide all the details you need to judge an activity's feasibility (costs, times, safety considerations, location, transportation), her response may provide insight as to whether the motivation is coming from peer pressure or from a genuine interest.
2. Get Your Child Invested
Shere suggests that to make sure your child is truly interested in a certain activity or expense, ask her to pitch in time, effort or even money. That will help her make conscious decisions about what's important to her, and also encourage her to value the experience more in the end. For example, you can assign monetary values to a list of tasks that go above and beyond regular chores to let her "earn" experiences she wants, like going to summer camp. Making her bed might not be worth Camp Dollars because it's a regular chore, but cooking a weekly family dinner might count as "above and beyond" for a teenager. (We have more answers to questions about chores and allowance here.)
3. Establish a Trial Period
If you're thinking of starting a new activity, Gray recommends establishing a trial period (maybe until your child has completed all of his piano scales, or until two months are up). If your kid likes it and is getting something out of the experience, you can then decide to continue. Once kids have completed a "test period," you'll have a better sense of how much the activity means to them. Are they practicing? Do they talk about it? Is it a battle to get them in the car?
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*Note that the data was originally in British pounds and was converted to American dollars for this article.