The image of the perfect parent, in a nursery to die for, beaming over a smiling, healthy baby falls short of many people's experiences. Despite New Labour's marketing of British life as mainly middle-class, the Child Poverty Action Group says that 24 per cent of the population cannot even afford new children's clothes.

Although Hillary Clinton famously wrote, "It takes a village" to raise a child, in her book of the same name, about 90 per cent of expenditure on children comes from parents, according to a study of over 10,000 children in Britain by the Joseph Roundtree Foundation. It doesn't get better as time goes by. Children require more money as they grow older and become consumers in their own right. The figures below, unless otherwise stated, are for the first 17 years. Inevitably, this is an average, which conceals major inequalities.

Necessities Food, where most of the expense lies, pounds 16,194.88; clothes spending which, surprisingly, decreases as children get older, 17 per cent of all expenditure for babies and 7 per cent for secondary school children, pounds 3,960.60; nappies, pounds 795.60; furniture and soft furnishings, pounds 13,551.72

Pre-school childcare (full-time child minder, up to pounds 100 per week; private nursery, up to pounds 180 per week), average, pounds 7,280

Primary and secondary state school Educational trips, pounds 1,865.24; leisure trips to theme parks or holidays abroad, pounds 1,317.16; extra lessons, such as music, pounds 1,326; expenses, including books, pounds 1,564.68; sponsorship and charity donations, pounds 601.12; sport, pounds 1,025.44; miscellaneous expenses, such as plays and concerts, pounds 963.56

Regulars Magazines, books, toys, video and computer game rentals, pounds 215.81; Christmas presents, pounds 4,428.84; birthdays, pounds 5,454.28; holidays, day trips and museum visits, pounds 4,296

Total for 17 years, pounds 64,840.93

Additional information: Hugh Davies and Heather Joshi, University of London