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Quantitative and Empirical Demonstration of the Matthew Effect in a Study of Career Longevity

National Academy of Science USA, Vol. 108, pp. 18-23, 2011

13 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2011  

Alexander Michael Petersen

University of California Merced, Ernest and Julio Gallo Management Program

Woo-Sung Jung

Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH)

Jae-Suk Yang

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

H. Eugene Stanley

Boston University - Center for Polymer Studies

Date Written: January 4, 2011

Abstract

The Matthew effect refers to the adage written some two-thousand years ago in the Gospel of St. Matthew: “For to all those who have, more will be given.” Even two millennia later, this idiom is used by sociologists to qualitatively describe the dynamics of individual progress and the interplay between status and reward. Quantitative studies of professional careers are traditionally limited by the difficulty in measuring progress and the lack of data on individual careers. However, in some professions, there are well-defined metrics that quantify career longevity, success, and prowess, which together contribute to the overall success rating for an individual employee. Here we demonstrate testable evidence of the age-old Matthew “rich get richer” effect, wherein the longevity and past success of an individual lead to a cumulative advantage in further developing his or her career. We develop an exactly solvable stochastic career progress model that quantitatively incorporates the Matthew effect and validate our model predictions for several competitive professions. We test our model on the careers of 400,000 scientists using data from six high-impact journals and further confirm our findings by testing the model on the careers of more than 20,000 athletes in four sports leagues. Our model highlights the importance of early career development, showing that many careers are stunted by the relative disadvantage associated with inexperience.

Keywords: Matthew Effect, Poisson Process, career longevity, production, hazard rate

JEL Classification: D39, J24, J44, L83

Suggested Citation

Petersen, Alexander Michael and Jung, Woo-Sung and Yang, Jae-Suk and Stanley, H. Eugene, Quantitative and Empirical Demonstration of the Matthew Effect in a Study of Career Longevity (January 4, 2011). National Academy of Science USA, Vol. 108, pp. 18-23, 2011 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1889424

Alexander Michael Petersen (Contact Author)

University of California Merced, Ernest and Julio Gallo Management Program ( email )

School of Engineering
Science & Engineering 2, Suite 315
Merced, CA 95343
United States

Woo-Sung Jung

Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) ( email )

77 Cheongam-ro
Pohang
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

Jae-Suk Yang

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) ( email )

291 Daehak-ro
Yuseong-gu
Daejeon, 34141
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

H. Eugene Stanley

Boston University - Center for Polymer Studies ( email )

Boston, MA 02215
United States

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