The chapter focuses on what Sociologist Robert Merton referred to as the “The Matthew Effect”, borrowed from the Biblical book of Matthew. The reading suggests that those who have have more shall receive more, but those with little will have even what they have taken away from them. The chapter focuses on hockey in Canada, baseball in the United States, and Soccer in Europe to explain the phenomenon. In the early part of the chapter, the author recognizes that the Canadian hockey tournament’s best players are most born in January, February, and March. Only a few born in the remaining months, in the future will shine in the game. Upon further analysis, the challenge emerges from the fact that individuals born closest to the cutoff date, which is January 1, in the case of Canadian hockey, have the advantage of receiving close attention in training due to the age advantage.
The chapter explains “The Matthew Effect” from the perspective of selection, streaming, and differentiated experience, which occur due to skewed age distributions in decision-making, such as in sports. Selection occurs during the early ages of an individual’s life, such as when choosing who enters the main hockey teams, such as the “Novice” level and the leagues for the next classes, which include selection, sifting, and grooming to enter the Major Junior A, which occurs as they enter the mid-teen years. The author observes that many players do not enter or succeed in this level based solely on their talent. Instead, the age distribution bias gives some an advantage over others. Apart from selection, which advantages players closest to the cutoff date, streaming occurs, which determines who is talented and who is not. Again, older individuals are given a priority in training and attention, which makes them better than those born far from the cutoff date.
Unfortunately, the challenge occurs in other areas, such as education, where children born in the earlier months of the year have better chances of succeeding throughout their education. The chapter contains evidence from two economists, Kelly Bedard and Elizabeth Dhuey, to support the effect of biased age distributions in education. They revealed that the older students had an advantage over the younger ones among fourth-graders, such as their score being somewhere between four and twelve percentile better. The results suggested that taking two intellectually equal students in the same class, but with birthdays in the two ends of the cutoff date, their performance will differ, with the one closest to the cutoff having a greater advantage. Thus, “The Matthew Effect” has negative consequences, especially on disadvantaged groups throughout their lives.
The chapter concludes that the argument that the most talented individuals are the ones who get to the top, especially in sports such as hockey, is simplistic. While it is true that talent is necessary, leaders create an advantage that favors some individuals over others. The selection provides some with a great head start and an opportunity they do not earn or deserve. “The Matthew Effect” is an unfair process of determining who deserves to be at the top since it gives more to those who have and snatches away the little that others have. Leaders should rethink their selection process to provide every person a chance to move to the top.