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Foundations for measuring equality: a discussion paper for the equalities review


  • Burchardt, Tania


The Equalities Review is an independent panel set up by the UK government in 2005 to investigate the persistence of social inequalities and to make recommendations for the development of a unified Commission for Equality and Human Rights. This paper was originally written for the Review. It canvasses possible responses to the questions, ‘equality between whom?’ and ‘equality of what?’. It argues that equality of outcome is intuitively appealing but risks ignoring variations in need, differences in values and preferences, and the importance of individual agency. A broad interpretation of equality of opportunity, such as is provided by the capability approach, can address these limitations, by focusing on the substantive freedom enjoyed by individuals. Substantive freedom may be limited by a lack of personal resources, or by the economic, social, political, cultural, and environmental conditions context in which the individual is operating. The paper concludes by identifying, and indicating solutions to, a number of measurement issues that arise in operationalising the capability approach.

Suggested Citation

  • Burchardt, Tania, 2006. "Foundations for measuring equality: a discussion paper for the equalities review," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 6236, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:6236

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alkire, Sabina, 2005. "Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283316.
    2. Sen, Amartya, 1998. "Mortality as an Indicator of Economic Success and Failure," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(446), pages 1-25, January.
    3. Ingrid Robeyns, 2003. "Sen'S Capability Approach And Gender Inequality: Selecting Relevant Capabilities," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2-3), pages 61-92.
    4. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2004. "On the Arbitrariness and Robustness of Multi-Dimensional Poverty Rankings," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(3), pages 355-375.
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    More about this item


    Equality; opportunity; capability approach;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being


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