School of Computing

The economics of garbage collection

Jeremy Singer and Richard Jones

In Jan Vitek and Doug Lea, editors, Proceedings of the 2010 International Symposium on Memory Management, pages 182-196, Toronto, Canada, June 2010. ACM [doi].


This paper argues that economic theory can improve our understanding of memory management. We introduce the allocation curve, as an analogue of the demand curve from microeconomics. An allocation curve for a program characterises how the amount of garbage collection activity required during its execution varies in relation to the heap size associated with that program. The standard treatment of microeconomic demand curves (shifts and elasticity) can be applied directly and intuitively to our new allocation curves. As an application of this new theory, we show how allocation elasticity can be used to control the heap growth rate for variable sized heaps in Jikes RVM.

Download publication 266 kbytes (PDF)

Bibtex Record

author = {Jeremy Singer and Richard Jones},
title = {The Economics of Garbage Collection},
month = {June},
year = {2010},
pages = {182-196},
keywords = {determinacy analysis, Craig interpolants},
note = {},
doi = {10.1145/1806651.1806669},
url = {},
    publication_type = {inproceedings},
    submission_id = {8099_1276077049},
    ISBN = {978-1-4503-0054-4},
    booktitle = {Proceedings of the 2010 International Symposium on Memory Management},
    editor = {Jan Vitek and Doug Lea},
    address = {Toronto, Canada},
    publisher = {ACM},
    refereed = {yes},

School of Computing, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 824180 or contact us.

Last Updated: 21/03/2014