IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The mathematics of Ponzi schemes


  • Artzrouni, Marc


A first order linear differential equation is used to describe the dynamics of an investment fund that promises more than it can deliver, also known as a Ponzi scheme. The model is based on a promised, unrealistic interest rate; on the actual, realized nominal interest rate; on the rate at which new deposits are accumulated and on the withdrawal rate. Conditions on these parameters are given for the fund to be solvent or to collapse. The model is fitted to data available on Charles Ponzi's 1920 eponymous scheme and illustrated with a philanthropic version of the scheme.

Suggested Citation

  • Artzrouni, Marc, 2009. "The mathematics of Ponzi schemes," MPRA Paper 14420, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:14420

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blanchard Olivier & Weil Philippe, 2001. "Dynamic Efficiency, the Riskless Rate, and Debt Ponzi Games under Uncertainty," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(2), pages 1-23, November.
    2. O'Connell, Stephen A & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1988. "Rational Ponzi Games," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 29(3), pages 431-450, August.
    3. Bhattacharya, Utpal, 2003. "The optimal design of Ponzi schemes in finite economies," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 2-24, January.
    4. Forslid, Rikard, 1998. "External Debt and Ponzi-Games in a Small Open Economy with Endogenous Growth," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 341-349, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Mário Cunha & Hélder Valente & Paulo B. Vasconcelos, 2013. "Ponzi schemes: computer simulation," OBEGEF Working Papers 023, OBEGEF - Observatório de Economia e Gestão de Fraude;OBEGEF Working Papers on Fraud and Corruption.
    2. Marc Hofstetter & Daniel Mejía & José Nicolás Rosas & Miguel Urrutia, 2017. "Ponzi Schemes and the Financial Sector: DMG and DRFE in Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 015609, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    3. Parodi, Bernhard R., 2014. "A Ponzi scheme exposed to volatile markets," MPRA Paper 60584, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Zhu, Anding & Fu, Peihua & Zhang, Qinghe & Chen, Zhenyue, 2017. "Ponzi scheme diffusion in complex networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 479(C), pages 128-136.
    5. Juan Mayorga-Zambrano, 2011. "Un modelo matemático para esquemas piramidales tipo Ponzi," Analítika, Analítika - Revista de Análisis Estadístico/Journal of Statistical Analysis, vol. 1(1), pages 123-133, Junio.
    6. Parodi, Bernhard R., 2013. "Abc-Modell eines Ponzi-Systems
      [Abc-model of a Ponzi system]
      ," MPRA Paper 45083, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Lilia Quituisaca-Samaniego & Juan Mayorga-Zambrano & Paúl Medina, 2013. "Simulación estocástica de esquemas piramidales tipo Ponzi," Analítika, Analítika - Revista de Análisis Estadístico/Journal of Statistical Analysis, vol. 6(2), pages 51-66, Diciembre.

    More about this item


    Ponzi scheme; differential equation; market; bond;

    JEL classification:

    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:14420. 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: (Joachim Winter). General contact details of provider: .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.