Matthew Effect

The Matthew effect as used in education and presented by Keith Stanovich, is based on the Matthew effect in sociology, described by Robert K. Merton in 1986 as an accumulated advantage where “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. Stanovich used the term to describe how early success in acquiring reading skills usually leads to later successes in reading as the learner grows, while failing to learn to read before the third or fourth year of schooling may be indicative of lifelong problems in learning new skills. This may be because children who fall behind in reading would read less, increasing the gap between them and their peers. Later, when students need to read in order to learn new information, their reading difficulty can create difficulty in most other subjects. In this way they fall further and further behind in school, and ultimately dropping out at a much higher rate than their peers.