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      They Can’t All Be Stars: The Matthew Effect, Cumulative Status Bias, and Status Persistence in NBA All-Star Elections

      1 , , 2
      American Sociological Review
      SAGE Publications

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          Abstract

          This study investigates the extent to and mechanisms through which Matthew effects create persistent status hierarchies. We propose a model that highlights the role of cumulative status bias in the feedback loop that leads from initial status allocation to status confirmation. We investigate the formalized process of repeated status allocation in annual elections to the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star game. Using detailed records on player performances allows us to isolate the Matthew effect from actual productivity differences to show that a previous All-Star nomination improves the chances to be re-nominated. We demonstrate that this Matthew effect is partly explained by improved productivity after an All-Star nomination, but voters’ evaluations are also directly biased by a player’s prior status. Multiple previous nominations further improve a player’s chances, confirming the importance of cumulative status bias. The resulting status-biased persistence of achieved status implies ever greater decoupling of productivity and status, undermining the meritocratic allocation of status and resources even more than the existing literature acknowledges.

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          Most cited references61

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          The Matthew Effect in Science: The reward and communication systems of science are considered.

          R K Merton (1968)
          This account of the Matthew effect is another small exercise in the psychosociological analysis of the workings of science as a social institution. The initial problem is transformed by a shift in theoretical perspective. As originally identified, the Matthew effect was construed in terms of enhancement of the position of already eminent scientists who are given disproportionate credit in cases of collaboration or of independent multiple discoveries. Its significance was thus confined to its implications for the reward system of science. By shifting the angle of vision, we note other possible kinds of consequences, this time for the communication system of science. The Matthew effect may serve to heighten the visibility of contributions to science by scientists of acknowledged standing and to reduce the visibility of contributions by authors who are less well known. We examine the psychosocial conditions and mechanisms underlying this effect and find a correlation between the redundancy function of multiple discoveries and the focalizing function of eminent men of science-a function which is reinforced by the great value these men place upon finding basic problems and by their self-assurance. This self-assurance, which is partly inherent, partly the result of experiences and associations in creative scientific environments, and partly a result of later social validation of their position, encourages them to search out risky but important problems and to highlight the results of their inquiry. A macrosocial version of the Matthew principle is apparently involved in those processes of social selection that currently lead to the concentration of scientific resources and talent (50).
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            Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error

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              Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty?

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
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                Journal
                American Sociological Review
                Am Sociol Rev
                SAGE Publications
                0003-1224
                1939-8271
                April 2023
                March 22 2023
                April 2023
                : 88
                : 2
                : 189-219
                Affiliations
                [1 ]London School of Economics and Political Science
                [2 ]KU Leuven
                Article
                10.1177/00031224231159139
                63fc1008-f67a-4c42-94a1-befea957c8e5
                © 2023

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

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