Wealth distributions in asset exchange models

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A model for the evolution of the wealth distribution in an economically interacting population is introduced, in which a specified amount of assets are exchanged between two individuals when they interact. The resulting wealth distributions are determined for a variety of exchange rules. For “random” exchange, either individual is equally likely to gain in a trade, while “greedy” exchange, the richer individual gains. When the amount of asset traded is fixed, random exchange leads to a Gaussian wealth distribution, while greedy exchange gives a Fermi-like scaled wealth distribution in the long-time limit. Multiplicative processes are also investigated, where the amount of asset exchanged is a finite fraction of the wealth of one of the traders. For random multiplicative exchange, a steady state occurs, while in greedy multiplicative exchange a continuously evolving power law wealth distribution arises.

Received: 13 August 1997 / Revised: 31 December 1997 / Accepted: 26 January 1998