Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Poisson Distribution


The Poisson Distribution is a probability distribution in statistics that represents the number of events that can occur within a specific interval of time or space. These events must be independent, meaning they don’t affect each other, and they occur at a constant mean rate. It’s often used to model random events such as calls coming into a call center or the number of accidents at an intersection.


The phonetic pronunciation for “Poisson Distribution” is /pwɑː’sɒn dɪstrɪ’bjuːʃən/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Poisson Distribution is a probability distribution that expresses the probability of a given number of events occurring in a fixed interval of time or space. The events must be unrelated or independent and occur with a known constant mean rate.
  2. The two parameters of a Poisson Distribution are the actual, observed number of occurrences of the event and the average number of occurrences. In the formula, λ represents the mean number of successes that result from the experiment. The number of occurrences can range from zero to infinity.
  3. Applications of Poisson Distribution can be found in various fields such as telecommunication, finance, astronomy, quality control, insurance, and many other areas. It’s primarily used to model events such as the number of email arrivals in a minute, the number of phone calls at a call center per hour, or the number of decay events per second from a radioactive source.


The Poisson Distribution is crucial in business and finance as it provides a statistical model to predict the probability of a given number of events occurring in a fixed interval of time or space. This can be widely applicable to various business scenarios, such as estimating the number of calls at a call center in a given time, the number of sales of a particular product, or the number of defaults on loans. By studying and understanding the Poisson Distribution, businesses can effectively plan resources, mitigate risks, and make more accurate decisions. The Poisson distribution can reveal the likely occurrence of an event, leading to better strategic planning and execution.


The Poisson Distribution is a significant tool used in the business and finance industry to predict the likelihood of certain events happening over a specific interval of time or space. One of its primary purposes is to model events that happen randomly but at a known average rate, within a certain amount of time, distance, area or volume. For instance, it can be used to estimate the number of calls made to a call center per hour, the number of online sales of a product per day, or the number of incoming emails in a certain period. The finance industry, especially, frequently uses the Poisson Distribution in areas such as risk assessment and financial forecasting. It enables analysts and decision-makers to make informed decisions about future events based on historical data. In risk management, it helps in finding the likelihood of a certain number of defaults on loans in a portfolio. In trading, it can predict the frequency of a certain price change within a specific period. Thus, the Poisson Distribution’s main value lies in its potential for optimizing business operations, risk minimization, and maximizing growth and profits.


1. Call Centers: A call center typically receives a significant number of calls every day. The number of calls per hour or minute can be unpredictable. However, the distribution of these calls over a given time period will often follow a Poisson distribution. This data is crucial for managing staffing and resource requirements.2. Portfolio Management: In finance, the Poisson distribution is used in portfolio management for modeling infrequent events. For example, it can predict the probability of major market crashes, like a drop in the stock market by 10% or more, which normally happens infrequently but has significant implications.3. Insurance Claims: Insurance companies use the Poisson distribution to predict the number of insurance claims in a certain period. For example, an insurance company might predict that it will receive an average of 5 claims per day. Despite this average, the actual number of claims per day can vary greatly. By applying the Poisson distribution, the company can better understand the probabilities of different claim volumes and plan appropriately.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Poisson Distribution?

A Poisson Distribution is a probability distribution that represents the number of events occurring in a fixed interval of time or space. This distribution is commonly utilized in business and finance to model random variables that represent the number of arrivals or occurrences of an event.

Is the Poisson Distribution applicable to all types of events?

No, it is applicable only to events that occur independently and at a constant average rate. The events should also be rare or infrequent in a specified period or area.

How is the Poisson Distribution used in finance?

The Poisson Distribution is extensively used in financial modeling and risk management. It is used in areas such as modeling claim frequency in insurance, assessing the likelihood of default in credit risk modeling, operations management, and more.

Can multiple events in a short time frame be modeled using the Poisson Distribution?

Yes. With a Poisson Distribution, you can model the occurrence of multiple events in a short time frame even if the events are unlikely to occur.

How does a Poisson Distribution differ from a Normal Distribution?

Unlike a Normal Distribution that is symmetrical and defined by mean and standard deviation, a Poisson Distribution is skewed to the right and determined by a rate parameter lambda, which represents an average rate of value occurrences.

Do the events in a Poisson Distribution affect each other?

No. The events in a Poisson Distribution are said to be independent. This means the occurrence of one event does not influence or alter the probability of the occurrence of the next event.

What is an example of a real-world situation where a Poisson Distribution calculates probability?

An example could be analyzing the number of times a bus stops at a particular stop in a day. If the bus has a consistent likelihood of stopping there, the Poisson Distribution can be used to calculate the probability of a certain number of stops in a given time period.

What is the primary limitation of the Poisson Distribution?

A primary limitation of the Poisson Distribution is its assumption of a constant rate of occurrence, which might not be realistic in every scenario. Also, it assumes events are independent which may not always be accurate in real-world situations.

Related Finance Terms

  • Probability Mass Function: This is a function that gives the probability of each possible outcome in a Poisson distribution.
  • Lambda (λ): This is the average rate of value or the mean of a Poisson distribution, also known as the event rate or rate parameter.
  • Exponential Distribution: Often related to the Poisson distribution, this is a statistical distribution that shows the time between two events in a Poisson point process.
  • Poisson Process: This is a statistical model which uses the Poisson distribution to represent the number of events occurring in a fixed period of time with a known average rate.
  • Discrete Distribution: The Poisson distribution is a type of discrete distribution, meaning the values it can take on are distinct, separate values, often representing countable events.

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More