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Revisiting the thermal and superthermal two-class distribution of incomes: A critical perspective

Markus Schneider ()

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Abstract: This paper offers a two-pronged critique of the empirical investigation of the income distribution performed by physicists over the past decade. Their finding rely on the graphical analysis of the observed distribution of normalized incomes. Two central observations lead to the conclusion that the majority of incomes are exponentially distributed, but neither each individual piece of evidence nor their concurrent observation robustly proves that the thermal and superthermal mixture fits the observed distribution of incomes better than reasonable alternatives. A formal analysis using popular measures of fit shows that while an exponential distribution with a power-law tail provides a better fit of the IRS income data than the log-normal distribution (often assumed by economists), the thermal and superthermal mixture's fit can be improved upon further by adding a log-normal component. The economic implications of the thermal and superthermal distribution of incomes, and the expanded mixture are explored in the paper.

Date: 2018-04
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Published in Schneider, M.P.A. Eur. Phys. J. B (2015) 88: 5

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