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How Are Infants Like Adults?

With apologies to Levitt and Dubner for the "How are x's like y's" title, here's an interesting case of ticket pricing from the Big 12 conference:

When Kansas football fans Owen and Lisa Foust headed to the Jayhawks' season opener last Saturday, they bundled up 3-month-old daughter Kate to go along.

But when they presented their tickets at the gate, they were told they would need an additional $35 ticket for Kate.

"I just thought it was pretty tacky," Owen Foust said. "It's just a grab for money."

Of course Missouri games are more family-friendly (tongue planted firmly in cheek):

Fans under 2 also can get in free to see the Missouri Tigers or Kansas State Wildcats play, and those under 1 don't pay for tickets at Iowa State.

Seriously though, KU officials are apparently responding to complaints about infants invading other paying customers' seats:

"Everybody needs a ticket regardless of age," Marchiony said. "The very small children come with backpacks and bottles and toys. ... We've received numerous complaints over the years from people who are sitting next to those people — enough for us to know that even those sized children need the space."

So what is the proper price for parents of infants to pay? Of course it depends on what it costs to have the kids come in (including the expected costs imposed on other paying customers) and the willingness of parents to pay.

The article notes that Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma each charge to admit infants, but these schools, unlike Mizzou and KU, face a binding capacity constraint: NU, for example, has sold out every single game since the early 1960's. When capacity constraints hold, infants brought to games are more likely to impose costs on other paying customers than at KU and at MU, where games rarely sell out.

Program officials at KU could set up a family area where they sell a pack of tickets at a discount. Suppose they charge $35 for an adult ticket. They could charge, say $90, for a family of four: the same as charging $35 to two adults and $10 to two kids. The kids get a discount and it probably doesn't look as tacky. And they can funnel families to an area and away from areas where the kids may bother other paying customers.

And if capacity is not a problem, then decrease the number of tickets sold in the family areas and let infants in free. If there is an average of 50 infants that come to games, then offer 50 fewer tickets for sale and tell people that if they sit in the family area, then infants get in free to the family area. Otherwise they pay full price. If parents sit in other areas and their infants impose costs on others, the parents bear the cost.

Cross-posted at Market Power