INEQUALITY OF CONDITION
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.
condition is often present in small-scale, hunter-gatherer societies.
of opportunity occurs where differences in individual possession of wealth,
status and power result in definite advantages and disadvantages in the pursuit of
"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
We cannot have equality of opportunity
without equality of condition. Inequality of condition, like soft discrimination, hurts a
child throughout a child's life.
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
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. In particular, my method: (1) is consistent
with contemporary usage of the opportunity concept, (2) differentiates opportunity from
outcome, in that opportunity is defined as the chance of achieving a goal, (3) takes into
account the fact that people have different chances of developing certain goals, and (4)
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 Study. The empirical analysis reveals less inequality of occupational
opportunity than inequality of income, somewhat more inequality of occupational
opportunity among men than women, and more occupational opportunity among women than men.
- Measuring opportunity - KRYMKOWSKI Daniel H. - Mathematical Sociology in Japan and
America. Conference, Honolulu.
INEQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY IN COMPARATIVE
PERSPECTIVE: Recent Research on Educational Attainment and Social Mobility -
Richard Breen and Jan O. Jonsson
Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 31: 223-243 (Volume publication date August 2005)
Studies of how characteristics of the family of origin are associated with educational and
labor market outcomes indicate the degree of openness of societies and have a long
tradition in sociology. We review research published since 1990 into educational
stratification and social (occupational or class) mobility, focusing on the importance of
parental socioeconomic circumstances, and with particular emphasis on comparative studies.
Large-scale data now available from many countries and several time points have led to
more and better descriptions of inequality of opportunity across countries and over time.
However, partly owing to problems of comparability of measurement, unambiguous conclusions
about trends and ranking of countries have proven elusive. In addition, no strong evidence
exists that explains intercountry differences. We conclude that the 1990s witnessed a
resurgence of microlevel models, mostly of a rational choice type, that signals an
increased interest in moving beyond description in stratification research. -
"This, I think, gives us two kinds of reasons to worry about inequality of condition.
One is that inequality of condition undermines equality of opportunity, which is an
important value. Another is that inequality of condition in part reflects previous unequal
opportunities, which is unjust. Of course, you don't want to do too much to advance
equality of condition, since taken to extremes that would undermine everyone's prosperity.
Nor do you want to go too far in efforts at generating equal opportunities or you'll
fatally undermine liberty. But you do want to do some of both. Both are important values,
they're mutually re-enforcing, but neither one can be realized at the limit without
undermining yet other important values." - Matthew Yglesias is a writer living in
Washington, DC. - matthewyglesias.com
Naxalism and Maoism