IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Retrospectives: Pareto's Law

  • Joseph Persky

Vilfredo Pareto, using data for England, a number of Italian cities, several German states, Paris, and Peru, plotted cumulative distributions of income for these countries on double logarithmic paper. He claimed that in each case the result was a straight line with about the same slope. Thus, he asserted a law of income distribution. I discuss Pareto's discovery of this relationship; his theory of income distribution; Pareto's Law and Pareto optimality; the attack on Pareto's Law; the counterattack; and the more recent literature. For all the excesses of the Paretian camp followers, there remains the significant insight that the history of all hitherto existing society is a history of social hierarchies. There is the feel of structure behind income distributions. Something is going on here.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 6 (1992)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 181-192

in new window

Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:6:y:1992:i:2:p:181-92
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.6.2.181
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Chipman, John S., 1974. "The welfare ranking of Pareto distributions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 275-282, November.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:6:y:1992:i:2:p:181-92. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)

or (Michael P. Albert)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.