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Investment Talent and the Pareto Wealth Distribution: Theoretical and Experimental Analysis


  • Moshe Levy

    (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

  • Haim Levy

    (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)


The empirically documented Pareto wealth distribution at high wealth levels implies rather extreme wealth inequality. Is this inequality primarily due to differential talent, or is it due to luck? The answer to this question has profound political, social, and philosophical implications, as well as implications regarding market efficiency. We address this question theoretically and with a unique investment experiment with equal initial endowments and real out-of-pocket money. We show that the empirically observed Pareto distribution implies that luck, rather than differential investment talent, is the main force driving inequality at high wealth levels. © 2003 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Moshe Levy & Haim Levy, 2003. "Investment Talent and the Pareto Wealth Distribution: Theoretical and Experimental Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(3), pages 709-725, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:85:y:2003:i:3:p:709-725

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    Cited by:

    1. Ogwang, Tomson, 2013. "Is the wealth of the world’s billionaires Paretian?," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 392(4), pages 757-762.
    2. Campante, Filipe R., 2011. "Redistribution in a model of voting and campaign contributions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 646-656, August.
    3. Aloys Prinz, 2016. "Do capitalistic institutions breed billionaires?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 51(4), pages 1319-1332, December.
    4. Thomas Goda, 2014. "Global trends in relative and absolute wealth concentrations," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO CIEF 010897, UNIVERSIDAD EAFIT.
    5. Rustam Ibragimov & Marat Ibragimov & Rufat Khamidov, 2010. "Measuring Inequality in CIS Countries: Theory and Empirics," wiiw Balkan Observatory Working Papers 88, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
    6. Ibragimov Marat & Khamidov Rufat, 2010. "Heavy-Tailedness and Volatility in Emerging Foreign Exchange Markets: Theory and Empirics," EERC Working Paper Series 10/06e, EERC Research Network, Russia and CIS.
    7. Yuri Biondi & Simone Righi, 2015. "Inequality, mobility and the financial accumulation process: A computational economic analysis," Department of Economics (DEMB) 0058, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Department of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    8. Tomasz Kopczewski & Piotr Ziewiec, 2011. "Application of the multi-object first-price auction in the students registration system USOS," Ekonomia journal, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, vol. 27.
    9. Ibragimov, Marat & Ibragimov, Rustam & Kattuman, Paul, 2013. "Emerging markets and heavy tails," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2546-2559.
    10. Stachurski, John & Kamihigashi, Takashi, 2014. "Stochastic stability in monotone economies," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 9(2), May.
    11. Tomson Ogwang, 2011. "Power laws in top wealth distributions: evidence from Canada," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 473-486, October.

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