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The Econ in Econophysics


  • Anwar Shaikh

    (Department of Economics, New School for Social Research)


Modern authors have identified a variety of striking economic patterns, most importantly those involving the distribution of incomes and profit rates. In recent times, the econophysics literature has demonstrated that bottom incomes follow an exponential distribution, top incomes follow a Pareto, profit rates display a tent-shaped distribution. This paper is concerned with the theory underlying various explanations of these phenomena. Traditional econophysics relies on energy-conserving “particle collision” models in which simulation is often used to derive a stationary distribution. Those in the Jaynesian tradition rely on entropy maximization, subject to certain constraints, to infer the final distribution. This paper argues that economic phenomena should be derived as results of explicit economic processes. For instance, the entry and exit process motivated by supply decisions of firms underlies the drift-diffusion form of wage, interest and profit rates arbitrage. These processes give rise to stationary distributions that turn out to be also entropy maximizing. In arbitrage approach, entropy maximization is a result. In the Jaynesian approaches, entropy maximization is the means.

Suggested Citation

  • Anwar Shaikh, 2019. "The Econ in Econophysics," Working Papers 1913, New School for Social Research, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:new:wpaper:1913

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. A. Drăgulescu & V.M. Yakovenko, 2001. "Evidence for the exponential distribution of income in the USA," The European Physical Journal B: Condensed Matter and Complex Systems, Springer;EDP Sciences, vol. 20(4), pages 585-589, April.
    6. Alfarano, Simone & Milaković, Mishael & Irle, Albrecht & Kauschke, Jonas, 2012. "A statistical equilibrium model of competitive firms," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 136-149.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gregor Semieniuk & Victor M. Yakovenko, 2020. "Historical Evolution of Global Inequality in Carbon Emissions and Footprints versus Redistributive Scenarios," Papers 2004.00111,

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    More about this item


    Economics; arbitrage; econophysics; income distribution; profit distribution; statistical mechanics; Jaynes;
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