The Matthew Effect: How Advantage Begets Further Advantage

Daniel Rigney, Author . Columbia Univ. $24.50 (165p) ISBN 978-0-231-14948-8

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus says, “To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Based on this enigmatic statement, the sociologist Robert K. Merton labeled the tendency of the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer “the Matthew effect.” St. Mary's University sociology professor Rigney (The Metaphorical Society ) presents evidence from science, technology, the economy, politics, public policy, education, and culture to show that, generally speaking, this dynamic is so strong that it might be considered a social law: initial advantages position one for further advantages. The writing is terse, cataloguing study after study in a few paragraphs to establish the tendency of inequality to grow with the passage of time. A concluding chapter examines the ethical and policy implications of Matthew effects—for example, should socially disadvantaged students be given more aid than the advantaged? Rigney's summary of the latest research findings should contribute to a much needed discussion between policy makers, social scientists, and the general public. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/16/2009
Release date: 03/01/2010
Ebook - 176 pages - 978-0-231-52040-9
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