The Exchange

Kelly Evans: Kids on Planes

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Ahhh, the return of summer travel, of visits to the beach or the amusement park or to finally see grandma and grandpa...and oh yes, the return of kids screaming on planes.  

Probably one of the worst experiences of modern life, right? How many times have I boarded planes going please don't put me near those kids please please please. We've all swapped those stories. "I was on a flight from Newark to L.A. and there was a kid screaming next to me THE ENTIRE TIME. IT WAS THE WORST!!!" Deep down, I've always thought to myself just stay home until they're older! I'm pretty sure I didn't fly in an airplane myself until I was about fifteen years old.  

Anyhow, I recant those previous thoughts, and I've completely changed my mind. Turns out being in the other person's shoes can do that! I actually haven't taken our three on an airplane yet, and I hope to put it off for as long as humanly possible. But I kind of want to get on a plane myself now just to help out the other moms whose kids are having a complete meltdown.

 Like comedian Jen Fulwiler said in her viral video on this subject last week: "...in a lot of cultures, the sound of fussing babies is seen a sign of abundance and God's blessing. Instead...we expect women not to bring their babies into public spaces like restaurants, churches, or planes, or to get them to behave perfectly when they do."  

Why do I mention all this? Because there was huge news out of China yesterday: married couples are now allowed to have three children. Three! Until 2013 they could only have one! The country's demographics are a mess, as a result. Only 12 million babies were born in China last year, down from almost 18 million in 2016. The share of Chinese over age 60 has grown much faster than those of working age or under 18. This will become incredibly expensive for the government and a headwind to economic growth in the years ahead.  

And relaxing the birth policy alone probably won't make much difference, as the numbers above indicate. For many Chinese, having more children is simply too expensive; a poor fit for their lifestyles; and something that educated women in particular have been postponing. Which is exactly my point: the headwinds to larger families are mainly the same whether in China, Japan, Korea, or the U.S.  

What would it take to really incentivize families to have more children? Nothing short of a complete culture shift. Where you live, who works, how they work, how many carseats your car can fit, how many plane tickets you can afford, where your extended family lives, the cost of education and healthcare and etc., etc., etc. Even doing things like offering families with three or more kids discount shopping cards, like they do in Poland, probably wouldn't on its own change things too much. It's no wonder the closest we've come to something like UBI so far is in the form of Biden's monthly child tax payments (which start July 15th).  

So maybe do need a little bit of a cultural attitude shift. I promise I won't glare the next time we're seated next to those screaming kids at the restaurant. (And yes, I realize a lot of us modern parents aren't exactly, um, great at keeping our kids well-behaved). Maybe we should start bringing our kids around with us more, and the public will get better at accommodating them. Maybe Covid and Zoom actually helped to tear down the wall between work and home life a little bit. Maybe every day can be bring your child to work day! Okay, now I've gone too far.  

See you at 1 p.m!

 Kelly

Twitter: @KellyCNBC

Instagram: @realkellyevans

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