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The Economics Of The Gift

31 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2000  

Jeroen van de Ven

University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute


In the past, gift-giving has interested mainly anthropologists because it was taken to be a primitive mode of exchange. Recent contributions of economists acknowledge however that gift-giving is still present in modern exchange economies. In this paper gifts are characterized by motivations. Two main features of gift giving are to be explained: (in-)adequacy and (non-)reciprocity. It is argued that social approval is potentially a powerful explanation of gift-giving. We relate the results to the market economy and try to explain the anomaly that gift-giving is sometimes reduced after compensation is offered.

Keywords: gift-giving, reciprocity, adequacy, social approval

Suggested Citation

van de Ven, Jeroen, The Economics Of The Gift. Available at SSRN: or

Jeroen Van de Ven (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

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