g. bruno

Vilfredo Pareto

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto (July 15, 1848August 19, 1923), or Fritz Wilfried Pareto, was an Italian sociologist, economist, and philosopher. He made several important contributions, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals' choices. He introduced the concept of Pareto efficiency and helped develop the field of microeconomics.


Pareto was born of an exiled noble Genoese family in 1848 in Paris, the centre of the popular revolutions of that year. His father, Raffaele Pareto (1812–1882), was an Italian civil engineer, his mother, Marie Metenier, a French woman. Enthusiastic about the 1848 German revolution, his parents named him Fritz Wilfried, which became Vilfredo Federico upon his family's move back to Italy in 1858. In his childhood, Pareto lived in a middle-class environment, receiving a high standard of education. In 1867, he earned a degree in mathematical sciences and in 1870 a doctorate in engineering from what is now the Polytechnic University of Turin. His dissertation was entitled "The Fundamental Principles of Equilibrium in Solid Bodies". His later interest in equilibrium analysis in economics and sociology can be traced back to this paper.

For some years after graduation, he worked as a civil engineer, first for the state-owned Italian Railway Company and later in private industry. Meanwhile, he became increasingly interested in social and economic problems. In 1886 he became a lecturer on economics and management at the University of Florence. His stay in Florence was marked by political activity, much of it fuelled by his own frustrations with government regulators. In 1889, after the death of his parents, Pareto changed his lifestyle, quitting his job and marrying a Russian, Alessandrina Bakunin. He began writing numerous polemical articles against the government, which caused him much trouble.

In 1893, he was appointed a lecturer in economics at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1906, he made the famous observation that twenty percent of the population owned eighty percent of the property in Italy, later generalised by Joseph M. Juran and others into the so-called Pareto principle (also termed the 80-20 rule) and generalised further to the concept of a Pareto distribution.

He died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1923.

Economic rules

A few economic rules are based on his work :


  • In his Trattato di Sociologia Generale (1916, rev. French trans. 1917) published in English under the title The Mind and Society (1935), he put forward the first social cycle theory in sociology.
  • He is famous for saying "history is a graveyard of aristocracies".
  • A great deal of Talcott Parsons' theory of society is based on Pareto's works. Parsons aimed at a sociology canon made of Durkheim, Weber, and Pareto.

See also


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