61 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008 Last revised: 3 Apr 2009
Date Written: September 11, 2008
A power law is the form taken by a large number of surprising empirical regularities in economics and finance. This article surveys well-documented empirical power laws concerning income and wealth, the size of cities and firms, stock market returns, trading volume, international trade, and executive pay. It reviews detail-independent theoretical motivations that make sharp predictions concerning the existence and coefficients of power laws, without requiring delicate tuning of model parameters. These theoretical mechanisms include random growth, optimization, and the economics of superstars coupled with extreme value theory. Some of the empirical regularities currently lack an appropriate explanation. This article highlights these open areas for future research.
Keywords: scaling, fat tails, superstars, crashes
JEL Classification: E0,G1, R1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
By N. Mankiw
By John Shea