Boo Santa

Wharton economist Joel Waldfogel has written a pocket-sized book, the kind you grab at the register at Borders on impulse. Published just in time for the Christmas season, Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays (Princeton), isn’t bad. Or, as Waldfogel would say, the deadweight loss of getting this book as a gift would be less than you might expect.

Waldfogel calculates the total value destruction of Christmas at about $12 billion a year, combining holiday spending figures with his own surveys gauging the relationship between money spent and the value of a gift to the typical recipient. But Scroogenomics is not all gloom and doom. Siblings, parents, and significant others aren’t terrible givers, he argues; it’s the great aunts who are dragging the average down. —Katherine Mangu-Ward

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