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Measuring Cumulative Advantage and the Matthew Effect

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.

Om 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.

Värdar för seminariet är Peter Hedström, David Sumpter och Fredrik Liljeros från Institutet för Framtidsstudier. Seminariet är gratis och äger rum kl. 12.30–14.00 på Institutet för Framtidsstudier, Holländargatan 13, Stockholm.

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