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Inequality of Opportunity: Theory and Measurement

ISBN: 978-1-78052-034-6, eISBN: 978-1-78052-035-3

ISSN: 1049-2585

Publication date: 26 October 2011


Individuals are completely responsible for their outcomes (income, utility, health and so on) and, therefore, total inequality is due to individual responsible choices. This view has been challenged by philosophers and economists for the last three decades since the magnum opus by John Rawls (1971). These authors have argued that individuals are only responsible for their own efforts, and, therefore, people should be compensated for a variety of circumstances beyond their control. The meritocracy approach rejects the existence of circumstances and, in accordance with this, considers that total inequality is due to inequality of effort. On the contrary, the equality of opportunity approach recognizes the existence of factors that affect individuals and over which they have no control. For the former approach, the relevant equilizandum is individual freedom of access to education, positions and jobs. For the latter approach, the relevant equilizandum is the set of available opportunities to acquire those attributes required to compete for a position or job.


Gabriel Rodríguez, J. (2011), "Foreword", Gabriel Rodríguez, J. (Ed.) Inequality of Opportunity: Theory and Measurement (Research on Economic Inequality, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. ix-xi.



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