Sociology Index


Social Inequality, Social Stratification, Social Class

Where individuals have very different amounts of wealth, status and power. This is a characteristic of all complex modern societies. Equality of condition is often present in hunter-gatherer society. Inequality of opportunity occurs where differences in individual possession of wealth, status and power result in definite advantages and disadvantages in the pursuit of personal success. Inequality of condition undermines equality of opportunity, which is an important value.

"Sympathy is rarely strong where there is a great inequality of condition." - Macaulay.

Reducing inequality of condition is the central aim of huge and expensive welfare states, with not only income support for the poor, but excellent education and health care at all income levels. Britain is somewhat less serious, and the USA hasn't been serious since Roosevelt. We cannot have equality of opportunity without equality of condition. Inequality of condition, like soft discrimination, hurts a child throughout a child's life. inequality of condition in part reflects previous unequal opportunities, which is unjust.

Equality of opportunity is, of course, quite consistent with inequality of condition. But is not the same as two runners given an even start, and equally good tracks. Inequality of condition does not necessarily = inequality of opportunity. When it comes to general measurement of inequality of condition, inequality of consumption is probably more appropriate than inequality of income.

In American political discourse, a distinction is often made between inequality of condition and inequality of opportunity. The former involves the distribution of valued rewards in society, while the latter has to do with access to these rewards. In terms of scientific work, much more progress has been made on the study of inequality of condition than on the study of inequality of opportunity. This paper proposes an approach to defining and measuring inequality of opportunity that avoids many of the problems found in previous research. My method: allows the measurement of inequality of opportunity at both the individual and group levels. The approach is illustrated utilizing occupational data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Studies. - Measuring opportunity - KRYMKOWSKI Daniel H. - Mathematical Sociology in Japan and America. Conference, Honolulu.