NewsThe Science of Inequality

Physicists say it's simple

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Science  23 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6186, pp. 828
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6186.828

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The basic inequality that plagues economies the world over may have a simple explanation—according to econophysicists. Pick a country and you'll find multitudes earning next to nothing, a few raking in plenty, and a distribution between the extremes that falls exponentially as income increases, they claim. That distribution arises from an analogy to the concept of entropy, a measure of disorder in a physical system such as a gas, econophysicists argue. If so, then just as a gas evolves to a state of maximum entropy, random churning in the economy ensures that the income distribution tends to this inequitable form.