Cumulative (Dis)advantage and the Matthew effect in life-course analysis


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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.We argue that cumulative (dis)advantage is an intra-individual micro-level phenomenon, that the Matthew effect is an inter-individual macro-level phenomenon and that an appropriate measure of the Matthew effect focuses on the mechanism or dynamic process that generates inequality. The Matthew mechanism is, therefore, a better name for the phenomenon, where we provide a novel measure of the mechanism, including a proof-of-principle analysis using disposable personal income data. Finally, because socio-economic theory should be able to explain cumulative (dis)advantage and the Matthew mechanism when they are detected in data, we discuss the types of models that may explain the phenomena. We argue that interactionsbased models in the literature traditions of analytical sociology and statistical mechanics serve this purpose



Copyright: © 2015 Bask, Bask. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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