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Prioritarianism and Equality of Opportunity

Author

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  • Paolo Brunori

    (University of Firenze & Bari)

  • Francisco Ferreira

    (London School of Economics)

  • Vito Peragine

    (University of Bari)

Abstract

This paper asks whether prioritarianism – the view that social welfare orderings should give explicit priority to the worse-off – is consistent with the normative theory of equality of opportunity. We show that there are inherent tensions between some of the axioms underpinning prioritarianism and the principles underlying equality of opportunity; but also that these inconsistencies vanish under plausible adjustments to the domains of two key axioms, namely anonymity and the transfer principle. That is: reconciling prioritarianism and equality of opportunity is possible but allowing room for individual responsibility within prioritarianism requires compromises regarding the nature and scope of both impartiality and inequality aversion. The precise nature of the compromises depends on the specific variant of the theory of equality of opportunity that is adopted, and we define classes of social welfare functions and discuss relevant dominance conditions for six such variants. The conflicts and the paths to reconciliation are illustrated in an application to South Africa between 2008 and 2017, where results suggest broad empirical agreement among the different approaches.

Suggested Citation

  • Paolo Brunori & Francisco Ferreira & Vito Peragine, 2021. "Prioritarianism and Equality of Opportunity," Working Papers 574, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  • Handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2021-574
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Marc Fleurbaey & Vito Peragine, 2013. "Ex Ante Versus Ex Post Equality of Opportunity," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 80(317), pages 118-130, January.
    2. Paolo Brunori & Paul Hufe & Daniel Gerszon Mahler, 2017. "The Roots of Inequality: Estimating Inequality of Opportunity from Regression Trees," Working Papers - Economics wp2017_18.rdf, Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze per l'Economia e l'Impresa.
    3. Paolo Brunori & Vito Peragine & Laura Serlenga, 2019. "Upward and downward bias when measuring inequality of opportunity," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 52(4), pages 635-661, April.
    4. Vito Peragine, 2004. "Ranking Income Distributions According to Equality of Opportunity," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 2(1), pages 11-30, April.
    5. Adler, Matthew D., 2018. "Prioritarianism: Room for Desert?," Utilitas, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(2), pages 172-197, June.
    6. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1983. "Ranking Income Distributions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(197), pages 3-17, February.
    7. Fleurbaey Marc, 1995. "Three Solutions for the Compensation Problem," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 505-521, April.
    8. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francesco Andreoli & Mathieu Faure & Nicolas Gravel & Tista Kundu, 2021. "Evaluating distributions of opportunities from behind a veil of ignorance: A robust approach," AMSE Working Papers 2137, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, France.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Prioritarianism; welfarism; equality of opportunity; stochastic dominance; robust welfare comparisons; South Africa;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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