Research Seminar

Measuring Cumulative Advantage and the Matthew Effect

Date: 26 April 2013
Time: 12.30-14.00

Mikael Bask, Department of Economics Uppsala University


To foster a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind inequality in society, it is crucial to work with well-defined concepts associated with such mechanisms. The aim of this paper is to define cumulative (dis)advantage and the Matthew effect, with a focus on measurement of the latter concept. We argue that cumulative (dis)advantage is an intra-individual micro-level phenomenon, whereas the Matthew effect is an inter-individual macro-level phenomenon. We also argue that an appropriate measure of the Matthew effect focuses on the mechanism or dynamic process that generates inequality and not on the outcome of this process. The Matthew mechanism is, therefore, a better name for the phenomenon. We show that the Matthew mechanism was present in the artificial music market Music Lab when social influence between individuals was allowed, whereas this was not the case when social influence was not allowed. Finally, because sociological theory should be able to explain cumulative (dis)advantage and the Matthew mechanism when they are detected in data, we briefly discuss theoretical models that may explain the phenomena.

About Mikael Bask

Mikael Bask is a senior lecturer in economics at Uppsala University, where he teaches financial economics. His research interests include financial economics, macroeconomics and mathematical sociology.

Seminars hosts are Peter Hedström, David Sumpter and Fredrik Liljeros from the Institute for Futures Studies. The seminars are free of charge and take place at 12.30–14.00 in the Institute’s seminar room at Holländargatan 13, Stockholm.

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