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How Useful is Inequality of Opportunity as a Policy Construct?

Listed author(s):
  • Kanbur, Ravi
  • Wagstaff, Adam

The academic literature on equality of opportunity has burgeoned. More recently, the concepts and measures have begun to be used by policy institutions, including in specific sectors like health and education. Indeed, it is argued that one advantage of focusing on equality of opportunity is that policy makers are more responsive to that discourse than on equality of outcomes per se. This paper presents a critique of equality of opportunity in the policy context. While the empirical analysis to which the literature has given rise is useful and is to be welcomed, current methods for quantifying and implementing the concept with a view to informing the policy discourse face a series of fundamental questions that remain unanswered. Without a full appreciation of these difficulties, these methods may prove to be misleading in the policy context.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 10508.

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Date of creation: Mar 2015
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10508
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  1. Jaime Saavedra-Chanduví & José R. Molinas & Ricardo Paes de Barros & Francisco H. G. Ferreira, 2009. "Measuring Inequality of Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean," IDB Publications (Books), Inter-American Development Bank, number 361, July.
  2. François Bourguignon & Francisco Ferreira & Michael Walton, 2007. "Equity, efficiency and inequality traps: A research agenda," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 5(2), pages 235-256, August.
  3. Florence Jusot & Sandy Tubeuf & Alain Trannoy, 2013. "Circumstances And Efforts: How Important Is Their Correlation For The Measurement Of Inequality Of Opportunity In Health?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(12), pages 1470-1495, December.
  4. Anthony Atkinson, 2011. "On lateral thinking," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(3), pages 319-328, September.
  5. Ravi Kanbur, 2006. "The policy significance of inequality decompositions," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 4(3), pages 367-374, December.
  6. Ricardo Paes de Barros & Francisco H.G. Ferreira & Jose R. Molinas Vega & Jaime Saavedra Chanduvi, 2009. "Measuring Inequality of Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2580, September.
  7. FLEURBAEY, Marc & SHOKKAERT, Erik, "undated". "Equity in health and health care," CORE Discussion Papers RP 2373, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  8. repec:idb:brikps:60098 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Erwin Ooghe & Erik Schokkaert & Dirk gaer, 2007. "Equality of Opportunity versus Equality of Opportunity Sets," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 28(2), pages 209-230, February.
  10. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
  11. Milton Friedman, 1953. "Choice, Chance, and the Personal Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 277-277.
  12. Vito Peragine, 2004. "Measuring and implementing equality of opportunity for income," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 22(1), pages 187-210, February.
  13. Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1948. "The Utility Analysis of Choices Involving Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 279-279.
  14. Culyer, A. J. & Wagstaff, Adam, 1993. "Equity and equality in health and health care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 431-457, December.
  15. Bleichrodt, Han & van Doorslaer, Eddy, 2006. "A welfare economics foundation for health inequality measurement," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 945-957, September.
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