EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
Equality of condition, Inequality of condition, Inequality of opportunity
There is equality of opportunity where differences in individual's wealth, status
and power are not so great as to create advantage and disadvantage in the pursuit of
Liberal ideology and consensus theory claim that broad equality of opportunity
exists in modern societies.
Equality of opportunity is a political ideal opposed to
caste hierarchy though not to hierarchy as generally understood. The assumption is that
there is a hierarchy of more desirable and less desirable, superior and inferior positions
in a society.
In a caste society as in India where even today
untouchability is practiced in every nook and corner of the country, the assignment of
individuals to places in the social hierarchy is fixed by birth. The child acquires the
social status of his or her parents if their union is socially sanctioned. Social mobility
may be possible in a caste society, but one is admitted to a different level of the
hierarchy based on their initial ascriptive social status.
When equality of opportunity prevails, the assignment of
individuals to places in the social hierarchy is determined by competitive process, and
all members of society are eligible to compete on equal terms.
of condition is the central aim of huge and expensive welfare states, with not only
income support for the poor, but excellent education and health care at all income levels.
Britain is somewhat less serious, and the USA hasn't been serious since Roosevelt.
We cannot have equality of opportunity without equality of condition. Inequality of
condition, like soft discrimination, hurts a child throughout a child's life.
Equality of opportunity is, of course, quite consistent with inequality of condition. But
is not the same as two runners given an even start, and equally good tracks. Inequality of
condition does not necessarily = inequality of opportunity.
Measuring opportunity - KRYMKOWSKI Daniel H.
In American political discourse, a distinction is often made between inequality of
condition and inequality of opportunity. The former involves the distribution of valued
rewards in society, while the latter has to do with access to these rewards. In terms of
scientific work, much more progress has been made on the study of inequality of condition
than on the study of inequality of opportunity. This paper proposes an approach to
defining and measuring inequality of opportunity that avoids many of the problems found in
previous research. In particular, my method: (1) is consistent with contemporary usage of
the opportunity concept, (2) differentiates opportunity from outcome, in that opportunity
is defined as the chance of achieving a goal, (3) takes into account the fact that people
have different chances of developing certain goals, and (4) allows the measurement of
inequality of opportunity at both the individual and group levels. The approach is
illustrated utilizing occupational data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. The
empirical analysis reveals less inequality of occupational opportunity than inequality of
income, somewhat more inequality of occupational opportunity among men than women, and
more occupational opportunity among women than men. - Mathematical Sociology in Japan and
America. Conference, Honolulu, Hawai , ETATS-UNIS (23/06/2002) 2001, vol. 25.
Disquisition on Government
John C. Calhoun, 1840 - Excerpt
"Equality of citizens, in the eyes of the law, is essential to liberty in a popular
government, is conceded. But to go further, and make equality of condition essential to
liberty, would be to destroy both liberty and progress. The reason is, that inequality of
condition, while it is a necessary consequence of liberty, is, at the same time,
indispensable to progress. In order to understand why this is so, it is necessary to bear
in mind, that the main spring to progress is, the desire of individuals to better their
condition; and that the strongest impulse which can be given to it is, to leave
individuals free to exert themselves in the manner they may deem best for that purpose, as
far at least as it can be done consistently with the ends for which government is
ordained,and to secure to all the fruits of their exertions. Now, as individuals
differ greatly from each other, in intelligence, sagacity, energy, perseverance, skill,
habits of industry and economy, physical power, position and opportunity,the
necessary effect of leaving all free to exert themselves to better their condition, must
be a corresponding inequality between those who may possess these qualities and advantages
in a high degree, and those who may be deficient in them. The only means by which this
result can be prevented are, either to impose such restrictions on the exertions of those
who may possess them in a high degree, as will place them on a level with those who do
not; or to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions. But to impose such restrictions
on the exertions on them would be destructive of liberty,while, to deprive them of
the fruits of their exertions, would be to destroy the desire of bettering their
condition. It is, indeed, this inequality of condition between the front and rear ranks,
in the march of progress, which gives so strong an impulse to the former to maintain their
position, and to the latter to press forward into their files. This gives to progress its
greatest impulse. To force the front rank back to the rear, or attempt to push forward the
rear into line with the front, by the interposition of the government, would put an end to
the impulse, and effectually arrest the march of progress."
INEQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE: Recent Research on Educational
Attainment and Social Mobility
Richard Breen and Jan O. Jonsson
Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 31: 223-243 (Volume publication date August 2005)
Studies of how characteristics of the family of origin are associated with educational and
labor market outcomes indicate the degree of openness of societies and have a long
tradition in sociology. We review research published since 1990 into educational
stratification and social (occupational or class) mobility, focusing on the importance of
parental socioeconomic circumstances, and with particular emphasis on comparative studies.
Large-scale data now available from many countries and several time points have led to
more and better descriptions of inequality of opportunity across countries and over time.
However, partly owing to problems of comparability of measurement, unambiguous conclusions
about trends and ranking of countries have proven elusive. In addition, no strong evidence
exists that explains intercountry differences. We conclude that the 1990s witnessed a
resurgence of microlevel models, mostly of a rational choice type, that signals an
increased interest in moving beyond description in stratification research. -
"This, I think, gives us two kinds of reasons to worry about inequality of condition.
One is that inequality of condition undermines equality of opportunity, which is an
important value. Another is that inequality of condition in part reflects previous unequal
opportunities, which is unjust. Of course, you don't want to do too much to advance
equality of condition, since taken to extremes that would undermine everyone's prosperity.
Nor do you want to go too far in efforts at generating equal opportunities or you'll
fatally undermine liberty. But you do want to do some of both. Both are important values,
they're mutually re-enforcing, but neither one can be realized at the limit without
undermining yet other important values." - Matthew Yglesias is a writer living in
Washington, DC. - matthewyglesias.com
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