Published in Statistical Methods & Applications, January 1, 2020.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/s10260-020-00532-8.
This article provides a concise overview of the main mathematical theory of Benford’s law in a form accessible to scientists and students who have had first courses in calculus and probability. In particular, one of the main objectives here is to aid researchers who are interested in applying Benford’s law, and need to understand general principles clarifying when to expect the appearance of Benford’s law in real-life data and when not to expect it. A second main target audience is students of statistics or mathematics, at all levels, who are curious about the mathematics underlying this surprising and robust phenomenon, and may wish to delve more deeply into the subject. This survey of the fundamental principles behind Benford’s law includes many basic examples and theorems, but does not include the proofs or the most general statements of the theorems; rather it provides precise references where both may be found.
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