What can economics teach us about Santa Claus?

Bakó, Barna and Isztin, Péter (2017) What can economics teach us about Santa Claus? Society and Economy, 39 (3). pp. 349-358. DOI

PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader

Official URL:


In this paper we sketch a theory about the role of supernatural beliefs in incentivizing "good" behavior among children by parents. We present a simple theory on the production and the use of certain supernatural beliefs by parents to influence their children’s behavior. A prime example of this is the idea of Santa Claus and the idea that Santa Claus rewards children according to how well they have behaved during the year. We show that under standard conditions parents face a time inconsistency problem when trying to incentivize their offspring. We claim that the production of beliefs in certain supernatural or quasi-supernatural persons who allegedly have infinite lives can help parents discipline their children. Finally, we extend this logic to a community and its ruler or rulers. We show that rulers can have incentives to influence the beliefs of their subjects. This incentive is greater whenever the ruler is a monopolist and when he or she expects to rule for a long period. Rulers with limited ability and/or superior technology for producing beliefs will also supply more supernatural stories to enforce their rule.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:family economics, supernatural beliefs
ID Code:3078
Deposited By: Ádám Hoffmann
Deposited On:12 Oct 2017 12:11
Last Modified:12 Oct 2017 12:11

Repository Staff Only: item control page


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics