By Tzvi Pfeiffer
The question is often posed at a b’ris milah, bar mitzvah, or wedding. Which is the more economical child for a religious Jewish family to have—a boy or a girl?
At the hospital there is, of course, no difference. Aside from the shalom zachar, the b’ris milah is the first disparity. The cost of a mohel runs about $500–$1,000. A dairy seudah for 200 people at $18 a plate is $3,600. Add another $400 for the hall, and the boy is costing you an average of $4,750. We will add another $250 for the shalom zachor, bringing it to an even $5,000.
But wait. Of late there is the custom of sponsoring a kiddush in shul in honor of the birth of the baby girl. That runs on average about $800 to $900. The score thus far? At four weeks: Girls $850 vs. Boys $5,000.
But the b’ris does get you some savings in terms of baby clothing. If half of the attendees bring a gift, the value of these gifts can save you about $1,000 on average. The new score? Girls $850 vs. Boys $4,000.
We move on. About 1 out of 10 boys also has a pidyon ha’ben. The average cost? $3,600 for the food, $400 for the hall, and the kohein is another $250. Since only 10 percent of boys have a pidyon ha’ben, we will only add $425. The new score: $850 vs. $4,425.
Girls’ schools tuitions are about $500 per year cheaper than those of boys’ yeshivos. So, for grades 1–7, girls save another $3,500. The score is now $850 vs. $7,925 (using the girls’ tuition as a baseline and not including it in the total).
In terms of clothing, girls are a bit more expensive per year than boys. They need more outfits, more shoes, and jewelry. We will put this differential at about $800 per year. So, through seventh grade, we have to add another $5,600 to the girls’ score. New score? Girls $6,450; Boys $7,925.
And now come the bar mitzvah costs. Tefillin is $1,500, a hat for Shabbos about $200, and one for weekdays $250. A bar mitzvah suit, $200 (after tailoring). And then comes the cost of the meals: $40 per person with an average of 200 people—that’s $8,000—plus the cost of the hall, $500. Oh, yes, and the bar mitzvah lessons as well. This is another $2,000. Thus our bar mitzvah total is about $12,650, but the cost of Shabbos is another $3,000. So we add $15,650.
The new score? Girls $6,450; Boys $23,575.
And now we move on to high school. We assume that the higher tuition cost of the boys’ yeshiva education over and above that of a girl’s education will be offset by the increased costs in teenage girl fashion requirements. This carries us through four years of high school. And now comes the first year after high school.
The costs of a seminary education over that of first year beis midrash are about $13,000. Yes, that is true. So the girls are now at $19,450 while the boys are at $23,575, which seems that the difference may be just over $4,000. But this is not quite accurate.
Why? Let’s not forget the time value of money. We saved all that money during the four years of high school, so we can invest money for seminary in advance. $13,000 saved four years earlier at an interest rate of, say, 6 percent, is worth only $10,300. So the girl’s real expense compared to the boy’s is now $16,750 versus $23,575.
And now we get to marriage. Assuming the girl covers the wedding and the boy covers the FLOPs, the girl’s cost is an extra $30,000. The boy’s costs are flowers, $2,000; liquor, $3,000; orchestra, $4,000; photographer and video, $3,500. But let’s also assume that the boy must buy a bracelet, $1,600; a ring, $4,000; the leichter, $1,000; and the sheitels, $3,000. All this totals $22,100 when everything is said and done.
So the new score is Girls $46,750 vs. Boys $46,675, a difference of $75. Girls cost more, it would seem.
But wait, we are not actually done. Why? Because the girl gets married on average two years younger than the boy does. So we have to pay the food and clothing allowance of the boy for two years longer than we have to for the girl. This cost, on average, is about $4,000 per year. Tacking this price onto the cost of boys, our final figure is Girls $46,750 and Boys $50,675.
The shocking conclusion? It costs $3,925 less to raise a girl than it does to raise a boy. v