Max O. Lorenz

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Max Otto Lorenz (September 19, 1876 in Burlington, Iowa – July 1, 1959 in Sunnyvale, California) was an American economist who developed the Lorenz curve in 1905 to describe income inequalities. He published this paper when he was a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His doctorate (1906) was on 'The Economic Theory of Railroad Rates' and made no reference to perhaps his most famous paper.

He was of German ancestry, his father having been born in Essen, Germany in 1841.[1]

He was active in both publishing and teaching and was at various times employed by the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Railway Economics, the U.S. Bureau of Statistics and the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission. In 1917 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.[2]

He was married to his wife Nellie, and he fathered 3 sons: Fred, Roger, and Julian Lorenz.

The term Lorenz curve seems first to have been used in 1912 in a textbook The Elements of Statistical Method.


  • Lorenz, M. O. (1905). Methods of measuring the concentration of wealth Publications of the American Statistical Association. Vol. 9 (New Series, No. 70) 209-219.
  • Richard T. Ely, Adams, Thomas A. Adams, Max O. Lorenz, and Allyn Young (1908). Outlines of Economics. New York: Macmillan.
  • King, W.I. (1912). The Elements of Statistical Method. New York: Macmillan.
  • A discussion of generalised Lorenz curves: [1]
  • Some history of economists from the University of Wisconsin–Madison school around John R. Commons: [2]
  • Christian Kleiber and Samuel Kotz (2003). Statistical Size Distributions in Economics and Actuarial Sciences (pdf). Wiley. p. 263. doi:10.1002/0471457175. ISBN 978-0-471-15064-0.