Expenditure on Education


Korean households with two or more unmarried children were found to spend the most money on education. Their expenditure on education far outweighed that of childless families or empty-nesters, while they tended to spend much less on traveling or dining out.

Household Expenditure Rankings for Households with Two or More Children

Statistics Korea and financial investors found that expenditure on education topped the spending of households with two or more unmarried children, taking up 16.9% of the entire household expenditure. This figure is far more than the amount spent on basic necessities like food and non-alcoholic beverages, at 13%. The money spent on dining out and travel ranked third, with 12.5%, followed by transportation with 11.8%, housing and utilities 9.3%, insurance and other services 8.3%, clothing and shoes 6.8%, communications 6.3%, entertainment and culture 5.5%, and health 5.4%.

Comparison with Childless Households

The study showed that families with two or more children spent much more on education than any other form of households spent on the same category. Households with one unmarried child spent 8.5% of their total expenditures on education, while childless families spent 2.5%. That is, the parents of two or more unmarried children spend as much as 6.8 times more on education than empty-nesters, or households with no children. Households with one unmarried child were found to have the highest expenditure percentage on restaurants and lodging, same as traveling and dining out, with 13.6%, while those with two or more unmarried children posted 12.5% and those with no unmarried children 11.9% in the same category. This means that families with one child have more luxury to eat out or travel than those with more children. The average age of heads of households with two or more unmarried children was 44.15 years, while that of empty-nesters, who married off all their children, was 57.48 years. Those with double income also showed difference in their spending on education. Education accounted for 13.4% of all the total expenditure of double-income families, while households with single or no income spent only 10.5%. The similar trend was observed in their spending on restaurants and lodging – 13.5% for double-income families and 12% for non-double-income families.

Parents’ Quality of Life vs. Children’s Education

These statistical data demonstrate that Korean parents largely give up having a high quality of life in return for educating their children. They spend so much money on their children’s education that they don’t have much left over for other interests, eventually lowering their quality of life. This tendency has grown more noticeable in recent years. The percentage of education spending for households with no unmarried children fell to 2.5% last year from 3.2% in 2007, while that of entertainment and culture rose from 4.7% to 5.6% during the same period. But the percentage of spending on traveling and dining out dipped from 12.7% to 11.9%. In the same time frame, households with two or more unmarried children also saw a little drop in their education spending, from 17.1% to 16.9%, but experienced an even bigger decline in their restaurant and lodging expenditure, from 13.5% to 12.5%, showing that the cost of education is becoming a heavier burden for Korean families. The bad economy is forcing Korean families to cut down on traveling, eating out, entertainment, and cultural activities, but they cannot dare reduce their spending on educating their children. Only after the children are all grown and leave home do Koreans have time and money to invest in themselves. Korea’s education fervor is world-renowned and a crucial factor that propelled Korea from one of the poorest nations in the world to a global powerhouse. Perhaps it is not too preposterous to say that Korea’s growth was possible because of Korean parents’ sacrifices.

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