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Twitter responds to Fraser Institute childrearing cost claims

The Fraser Institute claims that it's never been easier to raise a child, but the internet would like to not-so-respectfully disagree.

The think tank released a report on Thursday claiming that the cost of raising a child is between $3,000 and $4,500 a year, considerably less than the $10,000-$15,000 suggested by other studies. Many who read the report took exception to its claims and took to Twitter to voice them. While there were many reasoned, sincere tweets that raised problems with the study's methodology — notably, it does not take housing or daycare costs into account — a more satirical take on the issue soon arose, in the form of the #FraserInstitueKidTips hashtag.

The hashtag was coined by Monica Rooney, a Toronto-based photographer and mother of two sets of twins, who offered some tongue-in-cheek tips for parents looking to make the Fraser Institute's budget a reality:

The tag took off — Rooney herself garnered a retweet from Canadian children's entertainer and activist Raffi Cavoukian — and others began offering tips of their own. Some spotted potential healthcare savings:

Others saw opportunities to cut childcare costs while solving other policy problems, killing two birds with one stone:

And of course, there are plenty of opportunities to save money and bolster Canada's resource sector at the same time:

Jokes aside, the report does seem to have hit a nerve, particularly the claim that raising a child is now financially "easier" than ever before. Paul Kershaw, a UBC social policy scholar and founder of Generation Squeeze, sees no basis for the report to be making any such claims.

"The reality is ... a typical 25- to 34-year-old, who's especially likely to have young kids now — that person in British Columbia is making $4 an hour less, after adjusting for inflation, than did the same aged person a generation ago in the mid-'70s — even though they're more than twice as likely to have post-secondary education, and all the debt that goes with it," Kershaw said.

Kershaw takes particularly issue with the report's exclusion of housing costs — particularly if the report is going to make the "easier" claim, he says, as housing prices are up almost 150 per cent. He also points out that one of the ways families have responded to the increased financial pressure is that often, both parents are working — which means families end up incurring childcare costs they might otherwise not.

"It's only because we have more young people devoting more time to the labour market that incomes at the young household level haven't fallen compared to a generation ago," Kershaw said. "[If you're working more], you have less time at home, and when you have young kids in particular, that's problematic. It creates a time squeeze for you."

Ultimately, Kershaw is skeptical of the study's motives. He argues that the Fraser Institute is known to be generally against government spending, and so a study that says raising children is getting easier suggests that the institute believes this is an area where government investment isn't needed. But young people, Kershaw says, are already severely underrepresented in government spending.

"Every year we spend about $45,000 per retiree or per senior on important things like medical care and public pensions and old age security," he said. "But that's nearly four times greater than what we spend on every Canadian under age 45 — counting grade school, post-secondary [education], employment insurance, childcare, workers' compensation and medical care.

"The Fraser Institute is being no friend to younger generations by further downplaying the squeeze that they're facing."

Matt Meuse is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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