The Pareto Principle and the Matthew effect

I was never lucky enough to attend university so often people talk about many principles and theories I have never heard of. This morning I was reading a book that mentioned two and went into a little bit of detail and I found it pretty interesting.

Pareto principle

I’d heard of the 80/20 rule in development terms: “The last 20% of the work takes 80% of the time to complete”. Learning that this was a “thing” was interesting.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Matthew Effect

I can say that I’ve seen this in action first hand with conference speakers. Often someone does their first-ever conference talk, submits it elsewhere and because a meetup organiser has seen the talk they are more likely to accept it. Once the talk has been done at two events, the speaker submits it to a third conference and is approached afterwards to share the talk at a fourth event. The speaker, now having gained the confidence of organisers, gains confidence in themselves and submits more topics to various events and in turn, they are approached to speak at other events.

The Matthew effect, Matthew principle, or Matthew effect of accumulated advantage can be observed in many aspects of life and fields of activity. It is sometimes summarized by the adage "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer."