Americans do indeed spend more when Thanksgiving falls early

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

Retailers don’t just put up decorations to steal Christmas sales from each other, Tim Harford notes. They are also boosting the total amount we impressionable customers spend:

In 2005, the economist Emek Basker…studied the US, where Thanksgiving now ranges between November 22 and 28, leaving as few as 26 or as many as 32 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. She found a clear pattern: Americans do indeed spend more when Thanksgiving falls early. The sums aren’t trivial: about $10 per person per day in today’s terms. Robert Urbatsch, a political scientist, used a similar approach to examine the jobs market and found that longer Christmas seasons lead to higher levels of employment.

Professor Basker estimated total holiday spending by comparing all spending in November and December vs all spending in September and October; the difference was about $300 per person in today’s money. Using a slightly different method, the author of Scroogenomics Joel Waldfogel has produced broadly similar estimates of the Christmas bump in sales.


  1. bomag says:

    I wonder from where comes all this money? Doesn’t seem like the kind of spending that creates anything; it is mainly a shift of resources into pure consumption.

    I suppose one could argue that the thrill of holiday spending spurs people to work harder and create more on their jobs so they can blow it on trinkets that will soon pass to a landfill. But if anyone here wants to send me a shop tool for Christmas, I promise to do productive work with it.

  2. Steven C says:

    So, what’s the effect in Canada, where Thanksgiving occurs the second Monday of October?

Leave a Reply