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How useful is inequality of opportunity as a policy construct?

Author

Listed:
  • Ravi Kanbur

    (Cornell University)

  • Adam Wagstaff

    (The World Bank)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Ravi Kanbur & Adam Wagstaff, 2014. "How useful is inequality of opportunity as a policy construct?," Working Papers 338, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  • Handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2014-338
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    File URL: http://www.ecineq.org/milano/WP/ECINEQ2014-338.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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, June.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Milton Friedman, 1953. "Choice, Chance, and the Personal Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 277-277.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. FLEURBAEY, Marc & SCHOKKAERT, Erik, 2011. "Equity in health and health care," CORE Discussion Papers 2011026, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    12. 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.
    13. repec:idb:brikps:60098 is not listed on IDEAS
    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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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. How useful is inequality of opportunity as a policy construct?
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2014-10-23 16:28:30

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    Cited by:

    1. Hufe, Paul & Peichl, Andreas, 2016. "Beyond equal rights: Equality of opportunity in political participation," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-068, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    2. Balcázar, Carlos Felipe, 2015. "Lower bounds on inequality of opportunity and measurement error," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 102-105.
    3. Jeffrey Zax, 2016. "Provincial valuations of human capital in urban China, inter-regional inequality and the implicit value of a Guangdong hukou," ERSA conference papers ersa16p693, European Regional Science Association.
    4. repec:bla:econpa:v:36:y:2017:i:4:p:380-400 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:kap:jecinq:v:16:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10888-017-9358-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Lara Ibarra,Gabriel & Martinez Cruz,Adan L., 2015. "Exploring the sources of downward bias in measuring inequality of opportunity," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7458, The World Bank.
    7. Paolo Brunori, 2016. "Review of Joseph Fishkin 's Bottlenecks: A New Theory of Equal Opportunity," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 62(1), pages 198-205, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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