Tooth fairy was stingy in 2017, despite the improving economy

It looks like the tooth fairy was strapped for cash in 2017.

An annual survey by Delta Dental, in which 1,007 parents of 6- to 12-year-olds were interviewed about Tooth Fairy spending habits, showed the average payout for a child's tooth dropped from $4.66 to $4.13, a decrease of 11 percent. The poll was conducted in mid-December of 2017.

Kids in Western states were the favorites of the tooth fairy with the average child receiving $4.85 a tooth ($6.76 for the first tooth). That was followed by the Northeast at $4.35 ($6.45) and the South giving $4.12 ($5.68). Children in the Midwest received the lowest average amount at $3.44 ($4.37). Those losing their first tooth averaged $5.70 nationally (down 2 cents from the previous year).

Delta Dental says its tooth fairy survey (now in its 14th year) has generally been an indicator of how the national economy is doing, but 2017 was an exception. Delta Dental said the S&P 500 index, an indicator of the economy overall, rose at an 18 percent pace in 2017, but tooth fairy average payments fell 11 percent during the same period.

Perhaps the tooth survey is an indicator of future economic performance. A National Association for Business and Economics survey showed most interviewees — out of 211 economists — believe that while recent tax legislation can be good in the short term, positive long-term effects will be much harder to sustain.

Of parents surveyed, 17 percent said the tooth fairy's visit helped teach their child the value of money. But it's a hit-or-miss lesson, as 50 percent said their kids save the money; 49 percent said their kids spend it; and 1 percent loan the money out or donate it.

Other survey findings:

  • 84 percent of the nation's households with children got a visit from the tooth fairy.
  • 73 percent of children still believe in the tooth fairy.
  • 14 percent of households where the tooth fairy didn't visit said affordability was a factor or that it put an unnecessary financial strain on the budget.
  • 46 percent reported that how much a child received was determined by "how much cash is on hand."
  • 11 percent felt guilty that the tooth fairy couldn't leave more.

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