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Controlling a distribution of heterogeneous agents


  • Galo Nuño

    (Banco de España)

  • Benjamin Moll

    (Princeton university)


This paper analyzes the problem of a benevolent planner wishing to control a population of heterogeneous agents subject to idiosyncratic shocks. This is equivalent to a deterministic control problem in which the state variable is the cross-sectional distribution. We show how, in continuous time, this problem can be broken down into a dynamic programming equation plus the law of motion of the distribution, and we introduce a new numerical algorithm to solve it. As an application, we analyze the constrained-efficient allocation of an Aiyagari economy with a fat-tailed wealth distribution. We fi nd that the constrained-efficient allocation features more wealth inequality than the competitive equilibrium.

Suggested Citation

  • Galo Nuño & Benjamin Moll, 2015. "Controlling a distribution of heterogeneous agents," Working Papers 1533, Banco de España.
  • Handle: RePEc:bde:wpaper:1533

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Xavier Gabaix & Jean‐Michel Lasry & Pierre‐Louis Lions & Benjamin Moll, 2016. "The Dynamics of Inequality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 84, pages 2071-2111, November.
    2. Julio Dávila & Jay H. Hong & Per Krusell & José‐Víctor Ríos‐Rull, 2012. "Constrained Efficiency in the Neoclassical Growth Model With Uninsurable Idiosyncratic Shocks," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 80(6), pages 2431-2467, November.
    3. Robert E. Lucas Jr. & Benjamin Moll, 2014. "Knowledge Growth and the Allocation of Time," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(1), pages 1-51.
    4. Rocheteau, Guillaume & Weill, Pierre-Olivier & Wong, Russell, 2018. "A tractable model of monetary exchange with ex-post heterogeneity," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 13(3), September.
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    6. Charles I. Jones, 2015. "Pareto and Piketty: The Macroeconomics of Top Income and Wealth Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(1), pages 29-46, Winter.
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    8. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-990, October.
    9. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 118(1), pages 1-41.
    10. Menahem E. Yaari, 1965. "Uncertain Lifetime, Life Insurance, and the Theory of the Consumer," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 32(2), pages 137-150.
    11. Erzo G. J. Luttmer, 2007. "Selection, Growth, and the Size Distribution of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 122(3), pages 1103-1144.
    12. Blanchard, Olivier J, 1985. "Debt, Deficits, and Finite Horizons," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(2), pages 223-247, April.
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    1. Catalano, Michele & Di Guilmi, Corrado, 2019. "Uncertainty, rationality and complexity in a multi-sectoral dynamic model: The dynamic stochastic generalized aggregation approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 117-144.

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    More about this item


    Kolmogorov forward equation; wealth distribution; social welfare function; mean field control;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C6 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • D5 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium
    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment

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