The “econophysics” of wealth distribution

Jenny Hogan in New Scientist:

99997107f1_1The rich are getting richer while the poor remain poor. If you doubt it, ponder these numbers from the US, a country widely considered meritocratic, where talent and hard work are thought to be enough to propel anyone through the ranks of the rich. In 1979, the top 1% of the US population earned, on average, 33.1 times as much as the lowest 20%. In 2000, this multiplier had grown to 88.5. If inequality is growing in the US, what does this mean for other countries?

Almost certainly more of the same, if you believe physicists who are using new models based on simple physical laws to understand the distribution of wealth. Their studies indicate that inequality in market economies may be very hard to get rid of.

Economists will join physicists to discuss these issues next week in Kolkata, India, at the first ever conference on the “econophysics” of wealth distribution. “We are interested in understanding whether there is some kind of social injustice behind this skewed distribution,” says Sudhakar Yarlagadda of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) in Kolkata.

More here.