The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Symmetry Breaking

  • Kiminori Matsuyama
Reference work entry


Symmetry breaking creates asymmetric outcomes in the symmetric environment. It is the key concept for understanding self-organized pattern formations in natural sciences as well as in economics. We explain the logic of symmetry breaking and some methodological issues, and discuss applications to urban and regional economics, international economics, growth and development, economic fluctuations, and occupational choice.


Agglomeration forces Comparative advantage Fashion cycles Inequality between nations Investment distortions Racial segregation Regional economics Resource constraint forces Social inequality Spatial symmetry Symmetry breaking Temporal symmetry Total factor productivity Urban economics Urban segregation 

JEL Classifications

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Aghion, P., and P. Howitt. 1992. A model of growth through creative destruction. Econometrica 60: 323–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aoki, M. 2001. Towards a comparative institutional analysis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Azariadis, C., and B. Smith. 1998. Financial intermediation and regime switching in business cycles. American Economic Review 88: 516–536.Google Scholar
  4. Benabou, R. 1993. Workings of a city: Location, education, and production. Quarterly Journal of Economics 108: 619–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyd, J., and B. Smith. 1997. Capital market imperfections, international credit market and nonconvergence. Journal of Economic Theory 73: 335–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burdett, K., and R. Wright. 1998. Two-sided search with non-transferable utility. Review of Economic Dynamics 1: 220–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Francois, P. 1998. Gender discrimination without gender differences. Journal of Public Economics 68: 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Freeman, S. 1996. Equilibrium income inequality among identical agents. Journal of Political Economy 104: 1047–1064.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fujita, M., P. Krugman, and A. Venables. 1999. The spatial economy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Grossman, G., and E. Helpman. 1995. Techenology and trade. In Handbook of international economics, vol. 3, ed. G. Grossman and K. Rogoff. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  11. Krugman, P. 1987. Narrow moving bands, the Dutch Disease, and the economic consequences of Ms. Thatcher. Journal of Development Economics 27: 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Krugman, P., and A. Venables. 1995. Globalization and inequality of nations. Quarterly Journal of Economics 110: 857–880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lucas, R. Jr. 1988. On the mechanics of economic development. Journal of Monetary Economics 22: 3–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Matsuyama, K. 1991. Increasing returns, industrialization, and indeterminacy of equilibrium. Quarterly Journal of Economics 106: 617–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Matsuyama, K. 1992a. Agricultural productivity, comparative advantage, and economic growth. Journal of Economic Theory 58: 317–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Matsuyama, K. 1992b. Custom versus fashion. CMS-EMS DP No. 1030. Evanston: Northwestern University.Google Scholar
  17. Matsuyama, K. 1995a. Complementarities and cumulative processes in models of monopolistic competition. Journal of Economic Literature 33: 701–729.Google Scholar
  18. Matsuyama, K. 1995b. Comment on Paul Krugman’s ‘complexity and emergent structure in the international economy’. In New directions in trade theory, ed. A. Deardorff, J. Levinsohn, and R. Stern. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  19. Matsuyama, K. 1996. Why are there rich and poor countries? Symmetry-breaking in the world economy. Journal of the Japanese and International Economies 10: 419–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Matsuyama, K. 1997. The 1996 Nakahara Lecture: Complementarity, instability, and multiplicity. Japanese Economic Review 48: 240–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Matsuyama, K. 1999a. The 1999 Fukuzawa lecture: Geography of the world economy. CMS EMS DP No. 1239. Evanston: Northwestern University.Google Scholar
  22. Matsuyama, K. 1999b. Growing through cycles. Econometrica 67: 335–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Matsuyama, K. 2000. Endogenous inequality. Review of Economic Studies 67: 743–759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Matsuyama, K. 2002. Explaining diversity: Symmetry-breaking in complementarity games. American Economic Review 92: 241–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Matsuyama, K. 2004a. Financial market globalization, symmetry-breaking, and endogenous inequality of nations. Econometrica 72: 853–884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Matsuyama, K. 2004b. The good, the bad, and the ugly: An inquiry into the causes and nature of credit cycles. CMS-EMS DP No. 1391. Evanston: Northwestern University.Google Scholar
  27. Matsuyama, K. 2005. Credit traps and credit cycles. Working paper. Evanston: Northwestern University.Google Scholar
  28. Matsuyama, K. 2006. The 2005 Lawrence R. Klein Lecture: Emergent class structure. International Economic Review 47.Google Scholar
  29. Miyao, T. 1978. Dynamic instability of a mixed city in the presence of neighborhood externalities. American Economic Review 68: 454–463.Google Scholar
  30. Prigogine, I. 1980. From being to becoming: Time and complexity in the physical sciences. New York: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  31. Schelling, T. 1978. Micromotives and macrobehaviors. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  32. Weyl, H. 1969. Symmetry. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kiminori Matsuyama
    • 1
  1. 1.