The Matthew Effect: Why the Rich Get Richer

matthew effect re-inforcing loop

When I was in my teens and twenties, I always thought the world was unfair. 

How can the world be fair if the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?

Enter: The Matthew Effect.

The Matthew Effect, also known as the principle of accumulated advantage, is not only a platitude; it’s a scientifically recognized phenomenon that has been studied by sociologists and economists.

Coined by sociologists Robert K. Merton and Harriet Zuckerman in 1968, the term derives its name from a biblical parable found in the Gospel of Matthew.

The underlying mechanism of the Matthew Effect is preferential attachment. 

In simpler terms, it’s the idea that wealth gravitates towards those who already have it. 

If you have more resources, you’ll generally find it easier to gain even more. But if you don’t have any resources to begin with, it’s hard to grow. 

This is like a self-inforcing loop.

This dynamic creates an ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, making it increasingly challenging for the latter to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

Breaking your personal self-reinforcing loop

I’m quite pessimistic about changing the wealth gap on a collective level. I don’t believe governments or social constructs are able to make the poor wealthy.

It starts with the individual. 

We must take control of our own destiny and commit to breaking the loop. 

The Matthew Effect, in its extreme form, echoes a line from the Bible:

“Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

The idea is that if you’re open to faith, you’re going to be showered with wisdom. You’ll grow in your faith and gain a deeper understanding of it. But if you turn a blind eye, you’re not just staying where you are, you will go backward. 

This is a mindset. A way of looking at the world.

When you translate all of this to our daily lives, this mindset can lead to more happiness and also more prosperity. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed. But this mindset can help you to be more productive.

To get on the right side of the Matthew Effect, you must break the loop. Change your mindset first. Then, go through life with abundance.

Matthew Effect is abstract until it’s not

Yes, I know. All of this sounds abstract.

“Darius, what in the world does going through life with abundance even mean?”

This goes beyond money, wealth, resources, and opportunities.

The Matthew Principle taught me that life isn’t about fairness. We must stop keeping score and start looking in the mirror.

It’s about being content with what you have, while also striving for more. It’s an internal sense of abundance that comes from within and reflects outwardly in your actions, decisions, and interactions.

Having an abundance mindset means you believe there’s plenty out there for everyone. 

There’s no need for envy or jealousy because you understand that success isn’t a zero-sum game.

This belief allows you to celebrate others’ achievements without feeling threatened, and it opens up opportunities for collaboration and growth.

The world is filled with endless opportunities! Act like it and follow through on it and, eventually, you will increase your wealth.

Read Next: