What is Cumulative Advantage?

Since Merton’s original paper debuted more than 50 years ago, the Matthew Effect is also more commonly referred to as Cumulative Advantage. 

The most accepted description of this idea is that the advantage of one individual or group over another grows over time, which means that the inequality of this advantage grows, too.

Cumulative Advantage magnifies small differences over time and makes it difficult for somebody who is behind to catch up.

  • Research shows that those who start with an initial advantage attain better career positions, wealth, social status, educational opportunities, and even health.
  • The Matthew Effect has been connected to those receiving Oscar nominations.
  • A research study of 20,000 athletes across four sports leagues concluded that those who had the initial advantage of early coaching as children had longer and more profitable professional careers. 

From “Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business, and Life Against All Odds” by Mark W. Schaefer