Santa Barbara Ranks in Top 20 Most Expensive Cities to Raise A Child

By the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

 A U.S. study ranks Santa Barbara among the top 20 most expensive cities for raising children. According to the report, the average cost to raise one child per year in Santa Barbara is $24,710. 

Performed by SmartAsset, a financial advisement firm, the study examined 381 metro areas. The study reviewed the costs for housing, food, childcare, healthcare and other necessities when a family with two working adults adds one, two, or three children into their budget. 

According to the survey, the cost of raising three children averages more than $60k per year during the early years. Roughly 50% of that goes to childcare, 14% to additional housing costs and 14% to food, medical costs, transportation and other necessities. Santa Barbara ranked 18 on the list. Ann Arbor, Michigan, takes the top spot with the average annual cost per child exceeding $30,000.

In Santa Barbara, 1 in 4 people receive support from the Foodbank. During the 2023 fiscal year, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County served 230,000 meals, with nearly 40% of them to children. The Foodbank has seen a 40% increase in meals served since last year. Inflation and the expiration of pandemic-related programs such as Cal Fresh has added to the number of people using the Santa Barbara County Foodbank as a food resource. After the last Cal Fresh distribution in March, the Foodbank saw a 20% spike in food distribution the following month. 

For some single-person households, CalFresh benefits dropped from $281 to as little as $23 a month. In addition to providing healthy food, the Foodbank is focused on nutrition education and food literacy with programs geared toward children ages three to 18. Programs include Healthy School Pantry, Little Toddler Sprouts, and Picnic in the Park to name a few.

Picnic in the Park, a part of the Foodbank’s End Summer Hunger program initiative provides free lunch to children 18 years and younger countywide at 12 locations throughout the county. The program ended for many locations on August 4th. Four locations remain open; Casa De La Raza, the Santa Barbra Public Library and the Goleta Valley Community Center will stay open until August 18th. In north Santa Barbara County the Santa Ynez Elementary School PIP site will remain open until August 11th.  

For more information, please visit or contact the Foodbank at (805) 680-0625.


Written by FoodbankSBC

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  1. I am disappointed in the Food Bank for this release. This sort of stuff distorts reality and preys on emotion over fact. Relying on such “one study” which uses unknown parameters is sloppy. We do not know what the study deemed needed by the children for example. Maybe in Santa Barbara every child “needs” a personal trainer? All around me I see families with children that cannot possibly provide this amount per child. I give liberally to Food Bank. I do not need to be scared or guilted into further support.

    • CHAINSAW – I think that’s a great idea. Weird that it was downvoted twice. Things like child care, education, and public health are things that the USA is severely behind the rest of the developed world in. These lend to a higher quality of life. We are lagging behind. Let’s redirect all that “patriotism” and national pride and make our country truly something to be proud of!

  2. Child care, housing, and inferior public schools in the non-wealthy neighborhoods in SB are real issues. The cost of housing is out of control and for people who were born and raised in Santa Barbara, who aren’t wealthy from birth, it is a real struggle to raise children there. SB has become a city that caters to tourism and doesn’t care about its community, it is superficially pretty but rotting at the core. Infrastructure throughout town is a real problem, the streets are dirty, the parks aren’t safe and there aren’t many things for the youth to do that aren’t overpriced. Just look at summer camp rates! If you’re not rich then you are working multiple jobs and probably living in cramped quarters with more people in a home than there is room for, FACT.

    • DOULIE – I’d think we are, at least in SB City. Goleta and Carp seem to be carrying the working middle class, but for how much longer? The whole thing is tricky. Out of towners of means are easily buying up properties that many long time locals can’t afford. What do we do? Build more housing? OK, but it won’t be truly affordable to the middle class because developers still want their profits. We need state subsidies, not mandates. Forcing cities like ours to build more does nothing because it’s still not affordable. Instead, give incentives (money) to developers to provide truly affordable housing.

  3. Please define “core”, SBSAND, as in your “rotting at the core”. Unfortunately, as businesses leave State Street and downtown, except for the once-funky zone (the OFZ, as it’s known), to keep the infrastructure going requires workers, city staff — and tourism brings in that money. Maybe some parks are not safe (which?) but most, Chase Palm, Shoreline, Eastside-Yanonali, the pocket parks, Alice Keck Park Mem. Garden, are – at least are so in my experiences. Why are our streets dirty? That’s a simple answer: many of us are slobs or worse and street cleaning that we want requires staff. Safety aklso requires staff monitoring … and, again, staffing depends on income. Only the Enterprise Fund departments, Waterfront, for example, are self-supporting.
    Rents in cities, popular cities, all across the country are high – and not just in this country! But the fact that SB is not alone in this does not help. We choose to live here — and that choice, trumpeted by the Tourism groups, along with UCSB, Westmont, SBCC graduates choosing to stay after completing their educations, bring in more residents which, you got it, raise the rents in this supply and demand society.
    So, what’s the solution? Why are so many of our school children unable to meet the minimum reading and math standards in this college and university area? Etc. Why do so many families stay here when the rents are excessive and the public schools are failing so many? Why do we complain and yet do nothing about it, except complain louder and not attend meetings and often don’t vote?

    • Are you a homeowner Bird? Your perspective is clearly different from mine and your circumstances, whatever those may be, are likely different.
      SB is rotten under the surface, it smells, it’s sad. I don’t have any more suggestions for change, I tried to be involved, but was too busy working 2-3 jobs to just survive. I have finally moved away and am so grateful. It is refreshing to live in a city where community matters.

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