INEQUALITY OF CONDITION
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 small-scale, hunter-gatherer societies.
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.
"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.
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. 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