Christmas redux

It’s Christmas time again. Tim Harford’s on the case of that gift-giving economics article I talked about back in January, with typical accuracy:

“Waldfogel’s work is often misinterpreted as suggesting that gift-giving is pointless. That is not true. He explicitly excluded the sentimental value of gifts from his calculations, and, of course, the sentimental value is part of the purpose of giving presents.”

More than that, though; his positivist reading of the original article leads to some very sensible, common-sensical normative prescriptions:
“the economists Sara Solnick and David Hemenway have discovered that we prefer unsolicited presents to those we have specifically requested… All this points to the optimal gift-giving strategy: you need to minimise the deadweight loss while maximising the sentimental value. This suggests buying small gifts and striving for emotional resonance. Look for something inexpensive, and consider supplementing it with a letter, a photo, or time spent together.”

Prescriptions we can all relate to.

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