The soaring cost of prom: By the numbers

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week

It's boom time in the awkward world of tuxedo- and gown-clad high school slow-dancers. And surprisingly, poor teens are spending far more than their wealthy counterparts

"Prom is the new wedding" — at least when it comes to the price tag, says Hadley Malcolm in USA Today. Combine increasingly obsessive helicopter parenting, teens' rising red-carpet worship and Facebook narcissism, and the decline of debutante and other coming-out balls in the South and Northeast, and the springtime high school dance is becoming extremely expensive. "This is social-arms-race spending," says Jason Alderman at Visa, which recently released a new survey of prom spending. Here, a look at some of the eye-popping numbers: 

Amount the average family with teenagers will spend on prom this year

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Percent increase over the $807 the average family spent last year

Percent of the costs parents will cover

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Percent covered by the kids. Because parents pick up most of the tab, teens lack the "incentive to economize," which is "one of the reasons that prom spending may be running amok," says Visa's Alderman.

$20 to $250
Cost of prom tickets, depending largely on location, according to

$25 to $130
Pre-prom dinner, per person

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$30 to $275
Hair, makeup, and nails

$30 to $125
Prom photos, per person

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$200 to $500
Limo rental, split between all riders

$100 to $400
Average prom dress purchase, with plenty of families spending much more 

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Prom spending by families earning less than $20,000 a year 

Prom spending by families earning more than $75,000 a year 

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Prom spending by families earning $40,000-$49,999 a year

Prom spending by families earning $20,000-$29,999 a year

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The federal poverty level for a family of four

What the average Northeastern family will spend on prom

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What the average Southern family will spend on prom

What the average Western family will spend on prom 

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What the average Midwestern family will spend on prom 

Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, Visa/PR Newswire

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