Let ${n}$ be a natural number, and let ${\sigma: \{1,\ldots,n\} \rightarrow \{1,\ldots,n\}}$ be a permutation of ${\{1,\ldots,n\}}$, drawn uniformly at random. Using the cycle decomposition, one can view ${\sigma}$ as the disjoint union of cycles of varying lengths (from ${1}$ to ${n}$). For each ${1 \leq k \leq n}$, let ${C_k}$ denote the number of cycles of ${\sigma}$ of length ${k}$; thus the ${C_k}$ are natural number-valued random variables with the constraint $\displaystyle \sum_{k=1}^n k C_k = n. \ \ \ \ \ (1)$

We let ${C := \sum_{k=1}^n C_k}$ be the number of cycles (of arbitrary length); this is another natural number-valued random variable, of size at most ${n}$.

I recently had need to understand the distribution of the random variables ${C_k}$ and ${C}$. As it turns out this is an extremely classical subject, but as an exercise I worked out what I needed using a quite tedious computation involving generating functions that I will not reproduce here. But the resulting identities I got were so nice, that they strongly suggested the existence of elementary bijective (or “double counting”) proofs, in which the identities are proven with a minimum of computation, by interpreting each side of the identity as the cardinality (or probability) of the same quantity (or event), viewed in two different ways. I then found these bijective proofs, which I found to be rather cute; again, these are all extremely classical (closely related, for instance, to Stirling numbers of the first kind), but I thought some readers might be interested in trying to find these proofs themselves as an exercise (and I also wanted a place to write the identities down so I could retrieve them later), so I have listed the identities I found below.

1. For any ${1 \leq k \leq n}$, one has ${{\bf E} C_k = \frac{1}{k}}$. In particular, ${{\bf E} C = 1 + \frac{1}{2} + \ldots + \frac{1}{n} = \log n + O(1)}$.
2. More generally, for any ${1 \leq k \leq n}$ and ${j \geq 1}$ with ${jk \leq n}$, one has ${{\bf E} \binom{C_k}{j} = \frac{1}{k^j j!}}$.
3. More generally still, for any ${1 \leq k_1 < \ldots < k_r \leq n}$ and ${j_1,\ldots,j_r \geq 1}$ with ${\sum_{i=1}^r j_i k_i \leq n}$, one has $\displaystyle {\bf E} \prod_{i=1}^r \binom{C_{k_i}}{j_i} = \prod_{i=1}^r \frac{1}{k_i^{j_i} j_i!}.$

4. In particular, we have Cauchy’s formula: if ${\sum_{k=1}^n j_k k = n}$, then the probability that ${C_k = j_k}$ for all ${k=1,\ldots,n}$ is precisely ${\prod_{k=1}^n \frac{1}{k^{j_k} j_k!}}$. (This in particular leads to a reasonably tractable formula for the joint generating function of the ${C_k}$, which is what I initially used to compute everything that I needed, before finding the slicker bijective proofs.)
5. For fixed ${k}$, ${C_k}$ converges in distribution as ${n \rightarrow \infty}$ to the Poisson distribution of intensity ${\frac{1}{k}}$.
6. More generally, for fixed ${1 \leq k_1 < \ldots < k_r}$, ${C_{k_1},\ldots,C_{k_r}}$ converge in joint distribution to ${r}$ independent Poisson distributions of intensity ${\frac{1}{k_1},\ldots,\frac{1}{k_r}}$ respectively. (A more precise version of this claim can be found in this paper of Arratia and Tavaré.)
7. One has ${{\bf E} 2^C = n+1}$.
8. More generally, one has ${{\bf E} m^C = \binom{n+m-1}{n}}$ for all natural numbers ${m}$.