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Power Laws In Economics And Finance

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Executive Summary

A power law is the form taken by a large number of surprising empirical regularities in economics and finance. This paper 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 paper highlights these open areas for future research.

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