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Is the Pareto–Lévy law a good representation of income distributions?


  • John Dagsvik


  • Zhiyang Jia


  • Bjørn Vatne


  • Weizhen Zhu



Mandelbrot (Int Econ Rev 1:79–106, 1960 ) proposed using the so-called Pareto–Lévy class of distributions as a framework for representing income distributions. We argue in this article that the Pareto–Lévy distribution is an interesting candidate for representing income distributions because its parameters are easy to interpret and it satisfies a specific invariance-under-aggregation property. We also demonstrate that the Gini coefficient can be expressed as a simple formula of the parameters of the Pareto–Lévy distribution. We subsequently use income data for Norway and seven other OECD countries to fit the Pareto–Lévy distribution as well as the Generalized Beta type II (GB2) distribution. The results show that the Pareto–Lévy distribution fits the data better than the GB2 distribution for most countries, despite the fact that GB2 distribution has four parameters whereas the Pareto–Lévy distribution has only three. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2013

Suggested Citation

  • John Dagsvik & Zhiyang Jia & Bjørn Vatne & Weizhen Zhu, 2013. "Is the Pareto–Lévy law a good representation of income distributions?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 44(2), pages 719-737, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:empeco:v:44:y:2013:i:2:p:719-737 DOI: 10.1007/s00181-011-0539-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McDonald, James B, 1984. "Some Generalized Functions for the Size Distribution of Income," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 647-663, May.
    2. Majumder, Amita & Chakravarty, Satya Ranjan, 1990. "Distribution of Personal Income: Development of a New Model and Its Application to U.S. Income Data," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 5(2), pages 189-196, April-Jun.
    3. Kloek, Teun & van Dijk, Herman K., 1978. "Efficient estimation of income distribution parameters," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 61-74, August.
    4. Benoit Mandelbrot, 1963. "New Methods in Statistical Economics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 71, pages 421-421.
    5. McDonald, James B. & Xu, Yexiao J., 1995. "A generalization of the beta distribution with applications," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 427-428, October.
    6. van Dijk, Herman K & Kloek, Teun, 1980. "Inferential Procedures in Stable Distributions for Class Frequency Data on Incomes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(5), pages 1139-1148, July.
    7. Singh, S K & Maddala, G S, 1976. "A Function for Size Distribution of Incomes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(5), pages 963-970, September.
    8. McDonald, James B & Ransom, Michael R, 1979. "Functional Forms, Estimation Techniques and the Distribution of Income," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(6), pages 1513-1525, November.
    9. Esteban, Joan M, 1986. "Income-Share Elasticity and the Size Distribution of Income," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 27(2), pages 439-444, June.
    10. Parker, Simon C., 1999. "The generalised beta as a model for the distribution of earnings," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 197-200, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Frank A. Cowell & Emmanuel Flachaire, 2014. "Statistical Methods for Distributional Analysis," Working Papers halshs-01115996, HAL.
    2. Frank A. Cowell & Philippe Kerm, 2015. "Wealth Inequality: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 671-710, September.


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