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Equal opportunity is a state of fairness in which individuals are treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or
prejudices Prejudice can be an affective feeling towards a person based on their perceived group membership. The word is often used to refer to a preconceived (usually unfavourable) evaluation or classification of another person based on that person's p ...
or preferences, except when particular distinctions can be explicitly justified. The intent is that the important jobs in an
organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient that migrated from , a peninsu ...

organization
should go to the people who are most qualified – persons most likely to perform ably in a given task – and not go to persons for reasons deemed arbitrary or irrelevant, such as circumstances of birth, upbringing, having well-connected
relatives Relatives can refer to: * Kinship In , kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropolog ...
or friends, religion, sex, ethnicity, race, caste, or involuntary personal attributes such as
disability A disability is any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or effectively interact with the world around them (socially or materially). These conditions, or impairments, may be Cognitive disability, cogn ...

disability
, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. According to proponents of the concept, chances for advancement should be open to everybody without regard for wealth, status or membership in a privileged group. The idea is to remove arbitrariness from the selection process and base it on some "pre-agreed basis of
fairness Fairness or being fair can refer to: * Justice * The character in the award-nominated musical comedy ''A Theory of Justice: The Musical!, A Theory of Justice: The Musical.'' * Equity (law), a legal principle allowing for the use of discretion a ...
, with the assessment process being related to the type of position" and emphasizing procedural and legal means. Individuals should succeed or fail based on their own efforts and not extraneous circumstances such as having well-connected parents. It is opposed to
nepotism Nepotism is a form of favoritism which is granted to relatives in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, religion and other activities. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to important positions by C ...
and plays a role in whether a social structure is seen as legitimate. The concept is applicable in areas of public life in which benefits are earned and received such as
employment Employment is the relationship between two parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview; cropped away black border edge.jpg, 300px, ''Hip, Hip, Hurrah!'' ...

employment
and
education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion ...

education
, although it can apply to many other areas as well. Equal opportunity is central to the concept of
meritocracy Meritocracy (''merit'', from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
.


Differing political viewpoints

People with differing political viewpoints often view the concept differently. The meaning of equal opportunity is debated in fields such as political philosophy,
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the scie ...
and
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
. It is being applied to increasingly wider areas beyond employment, including lending, housing, college admissions, voting rights and elsewhere. In the classical sense, equality of opportunity is closely aligned with the concept of
equality before the law Equality before the law, also known as equality under the law, equality in the eyes of the law, legal equality, or legal egalitarianism, is the principle that all people must be equally protected by the law. The principle requires a systematic rul ...
and ideas of
meritocracy Meritocracy (''merit'', from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
. Generally, the terms ''equality of opportunity'' and ''equal opportunity'' are interchangeable, with occasional slight variations; the former has more of a sense of being an abstract political concept while "equal opportunity" is sometimes used as an adjective, usually in the context of employment regulations, to identify an employer, a hiring approach, or law. Equal opportunity provisions have been written into regulations and have been debated in courtrooms. It is sometimes conceived as a
legal right Natural rights and legal rights are two types of rights. * Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are ''universal'', ''fundamental rights, fundamental'' and ''inali ...
against
discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People may be discriminated on the basis of Racial discrimination, r ...
. It is an ideal which has become increasingly widespread in Western nations during the last several centuries and is intertwined with
social mobility Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between Social stratification, social strata in a society. It is a change in social status relative to one's current social location ...
, most often with
upward mobility Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between social strata in a society. It is a change in social status Social status is the level of social value a person is conside ...
and with
rags to riches Rags to riches refers to any situation in which a person rises from poverty to wealth, and in some cases from absolute obscurity to heights of fame, fortune and celebrity—sometimes instantly. This is a common archetype in literature and popular ...

rags to riches
stories:


Theory


Outline of the concept

According to the ''
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' (''SEP'') combines an online encyclopedia An online encyclopedia, also called an Internet encyclopedia, or a digital encyclopedia, is an encyclopedia An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia (British E ...
'', the concept assumes that society is stratified with a diverse range of roles, some of which are more desirable than others. The benefit of equality of opportunity is to bring fairness to the selection process for coveted roles in
corporations A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capa ...

corporations
, associations, nonprofits,
universities A university () is an of (or ) and which awards s in several . Universities typically offer both and programs in different schools or faculties of learning. The word ''university'' is derived from the ''universitas magistrorum et scholari ...
and elsewhere. According to one view, there is no "formal linking" between equality of opportunity and political structure, in the sense that there can be equality of opportunity in
democracies Democracy ( gr, δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polit ...

democracies
,
autocracies Autocracy is a system of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature A ...
and in , although it is primarily associated with a
competitive market In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods ...

competitive market
economy and embedded within the legal frameworks of democratic societies. People with different political perspectives see equality of opportunity differently:
liberals Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an adherent of a Liberal Party Arts, entertainment and media *''El Liberal'', a Spanish newspaper published betw ...

liberals
disagree about which conditions are needed to ensure it and many "old-style" conservatives see inequality and hierarchy in general as beneficial out of a respect for tradition. It can apply to a specific hiring decision, or to all hiring decisions by a specific company, or rules governing hiring decisions for an entire nation. The scope of equal opportunity has expanded to cover more than issues regarding the rights of minority groups, but covers practices regarding "recruitment, hiring, training, layoffs, discharge, recall, promotions, responsibility, wages, sick leave, vacation, overtime, insurance, retirement, pensions, and various other benefits". The concept has been applied to numerous aspects of public life, including accessibility of polling stations, care provided to
HIV The human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) are two species of ''Lentivirus ''Lentivirus'' is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, inc ...

HIV
patients, whether men and women have equal opportunities to travel on a spaceship,
bilingual education Bilingual education involves teaching academic content in two languages, in a native and secondary language with varying amounts of each language used in accordance with the program model. Bilingual education refers to the utilization of two la ...
, skin color of models in
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 mill ...

Brazil
, television time for political candidates, army promotions, admittance to universities and ethnicity in the United States. The term is interrelated with and often contrasted with other conceptions of equality such as
equality of outcome Equality of outcome, equality of condition, or equality of results is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social ...
and equality of autonomy. Equal opportunity emphasizes the personal ambition and talent and abilities of the individual, rather than his or her qualities based on membership in a group, such as a social class or race or extended family. Further, it is seen as unfair if external factors that are viewed as being beyond the control of a person significantly influence what happens to him or her. Equal opportunity then emphasizes a fair process whereas in contrast
equality of outcome Equality of outcome, equality of condition, or equality of results is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social ...
emphasizes a fair outcome. In sociological analysis, equal opportunity is seen as a factor correlating positively with
social mobility Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between Social stratification, social strata in a society. It is a change in social status relative to one's current social location ...
, in the sense that it can benefit society overall by maximizing well-being.


Different types

There are different concepts lumped under equality of opportunity. Formal equality of opportunity is a lack of (unfair) direct discrimination. It requires that deliberate discrimination be relevant and meritocratic. For instance, job interviews should only discriminate against applicants for job incompetence. Universities should not accept a less-capable applicant instead of a more-capable applicant who can't pay tuition. Substantive equality of opportunity is absence of indirect discrimination. It requires that society be fair and meritocratic. For instance, a person should not be more likely to die at work because they were born in a country with corrupt labor law enforcement. No one should have to drop out of school because their family needs of a full-time carer or wage earner. Formal equality of opportunity does not imply substantive equality of opportunity. Firing any employee who gets pregnant is formally equal, but substantively it hurts women more. Substantive inequality is often more difficult to address. A political party that formally allows anyone to join, but meets in a non-wheelchair-accessible building far from public transit, substantively discriminates against both young and old members as they are less likely to be able-bodied car-owners. However, if the party raises membership dues in order to afford a better building, it discourages poor members instead. A workplace in which it is difficult for persons with special needs and disabilities to perform can considered as a type of substantive inequality, although job restructuring activities can be done to make it easier for disabled persons to succeed. Grade-cutoff university admission is formally fair, but if in practice it overwhelmingly picks women and graduates of expensive user-fee schools, it is substantively unfair to men and the poor. The unfairness has already taken place and the university can choose to try to counterbalance it, but it likely can not single-handedly make pre-university opportunities equal.
Social mobility Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between Social stratification, social strata in a society. It is a change in social status relative to one's current social location ...
and the Great Gatsby curve are often used as an indicator of substantive equality of opportunity.https://milescorak.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/income-inequality-equality-of-opportunity-and-intergenerational-mobility.pdf Both equality concepts say that it is unfair and inefficient if extraneous factors rule people's lives. Both accept as fair inequality based on relevant, meritocratic factors. They differ in the scope of the methods used to promote them.


Formal equality of opportunity

Formal equality of opportunity is sometimes referred to as the nondiscrimination principle or described as the absence of direct discrimination, or described in the narrow sense as equality of access. It is characterized by: # Open call. Positions bringing superior advantages should be open to all applicants and job openings should be publicized in advance giving applicants a "reasonable opportunity" to apply. Further, all applications should be accepted. # Fair judging. Applications should be judged on their merits, with procedures designed to identify those best-qualified. The evaluation of the applicant should be in accord with the duties of the position and for the job opening of choir director, for example, the evaluation may judge applicants based on musical knowledge rather than some arbitrary criterion such as hair color. # An application is chosen. The applicant judged as "most qualified" is offered the position while others are not. There is agreement that the result of the process is again unequal, in the sense that one person has the position while another does not, but that this outcome is deemed fair on procedural grounds. The formal approach is seen as a somewhat basic "no frills" or "narrow" approach to equality of opportunity, a minimal standard of sorts, limited to the
public sphere The public sphere (german: Öffentlichkeit) is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. A "Public" is "of or concerning th ...
as opposed to private areas such as the
family In human society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same Politic ...

family
,
marriage Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people called spouse A religious marriage. A spouse is a significant other Significant other (SO) is colloquially used as a term ...

marriage
, or
religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology ...

religion
. What is considered "fair" and "unfair" is spelled out in advance. An expression of this version appeared in ''The New York Times'': "There should be an equal opportunity for all. Each and every person should have as great or as small an opportunity as the next one. There should not be the unfair, unequal, superior opportunity of one individual over another." This sense was also expressed by
economist An economist is a professional and practitioner in the social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , pl ...

economist
s and
Rose Friedman Rose Director Friedman (; born Rose Director (December 1910 – 18 August 2009), was a free-market economist and co-founder of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation. Biography Rose Friedman attended Reed College and then transferred to t ...
in their 1980 book ''
Free to Choose ''Free to Choose: A Personal Statement'' (1980) is a book by economists Milton Friedman, Milton and Rose D. Friedman, accompanied by a ten-part series broadcast on public television, that advocates free market principles. It was primarily a respon ...
''. The Friedmans explained that equality of opportunity was "not to be interpreted literally" since some children are born blind while others are born sighted, but that "its real meaning is ... a career open to the talents". This means that there should be "no arbitrary obstacles" blocking a person from realizing their ambitions: "Not birth, nationality, color, religion, sex, nor any other irrelevant characteristic should determine the opportunities that are open to a person – only his abilities". A somewhat different view was expressed by
John Roemer John E. Roemer (; born February 1, 1945 in Washington, D.C., to Ruth Roemer and Milton Roemer, namesake of Roemer's law) is an American economist and political scientist. He is currently the Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political S ...
, who used the term ''nondiscrimination principle'' to mean that "all individuals who possess the attributes relevant for the performance of the duties of the position in question be included in the pool of eligible candidates, and that an individual's possible occupancy of the position be judged only with respect to those relevant attributes".
Matt Cavanagh Matt Cavanagh (born 1971) is a British political adviser and author. He was a special adviser in the UK Labour government (2003–10). He worked for Home Secretary David Blunkett; for Chancellor Gordon Brown; for Defence Secretary Des Browne; and f ...
argued that race and sex should not matter when getting a job, but that the sense of equality of opportunity should not extend much further than preventing straightforward discrimination. It is a relatively straightforward task for legislators to ban blatant efforts to favor one group over another and encourage equality of opportunity as a result.
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
banned gender-specific job descriptions in advertising as well as
sexual discrimination Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on one's sex or gender. Sexism can affect anyone, but it primarily affects women and girls.There is a clear and broad consensus among academic scholars in multiple fields that sexism refers pr ...
in employment as well as other practices deemed unfair, although a subsequent report suggested that the law was having minimal effect in securing Japanese women high positions in management. In the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that was established via the Civil Rights Act of 1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 () is a landmark civil rights and United States labor law, labor law in the Un ...
sued a private
test preparation Test preparation (abbreviated test prep) or exam preparation is an educational course, tutoring service, educational material, or a learning tool designed to increase students' performance on standardized tests. Examples of these tests include entr ...
firm, Kaplan, for unfairly using credit histories to discriminate against
African Americans African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being t ...
in terms of hiring decisions. According to one analysis, it is possible to imagine a democracy which meets the formal criteria (1 through 3), but which still favors wealthy candidates who are selected in free and fair elections.


Substantive equality of opportunity

Substantive equality of opportunity, sometimes called fair equality of opportunity, is a somewhat broader and more expansive concept than the more limiting formal equality of opportunity and it deals with what is sometimes described as indirect discrimination. It goes farther and is more controversial than the formal variant; and has been thought to be much harder to achieve, with greater disagreement about how to achieve greater equality; and has been described as "unstable", particularly if the society in question is unequal to begin with in terms of great disparity of wealth. It has been identified as more of a left-leaning political position, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. The substantive model is advocated by people who see limitations in the formal model: In the substantive approach, the starting point before the race begins is unfair since people have had differing experiences before even approaching the competition. The substantive approach examines the applicants themselves before applying for a position and judges whether they have equal abilities or talents; and if not, then it suggests that authorities (usually the government) take steps to make applicants more equal before they get to the point where they compete for a position and fixing the before-the-starting-point issues has sometimes been described as working towards "fair access to qualifications". It seeks to remedy inequalities perhaps because of an "unfair disadvantage" based sometimes on "prejudice in the past". According to John Hills, children of wealthy and well-connected parents usually have a decisive advantage over other types of children and he notes that "advantage and disadvantage reinforce themselves over the life cycle, and often on to the next generation" so that successful parents pass along their wealth and education to succeeding generations, making it difficult for others to climb up a social ladder. However, so-called positive action efforts to bring an underprivileged person up to speed before a competition begins are limited to the period of time before the evaluation begins. At that point, the "final selection for posts must be made according to the principle the best person for the job", that is, a less qualified applicant should not be chosen over a more qualified applicant. There are also nuanced views too: one position suggested that the unequal results following a competition were unjust if caused by bad luck, but just if chosen by the individual and that weighing matters such as personal responsibility was important. This variant of the substantive model has sometimes been called
luck egalitarianism Luck egalitarianism is a view about distributive justice espoused by a variety of egalitarian and other political philosophers. According to this view, justice demands that variations in how well-off people are should be wholly determined by the ...
. Regardless of the nuances, the overall idea is still to give children from less fortunate backgrounds more of a chance, or to achieve at the beginning what some theorists call equality of condition. Writer Ha-Joon Chang expressed this view: In a sense, substantive equality of opportunity moves the "starting point" further back in time. Sometimes it entails the use of
affirmative action Affirmative action refers to a set of policies and practices within a government or organization seeking to increase the representation of particular groups based on their gender, race, sexuality, creed or nationality in areas in which they are u ...
policies to help all contenders become equal before they get to the starting point, perhaps with greater training, or sometimes redistributing resources via
restitution The law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its b ...

restitution
or
taxation A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act accord ...
to make the contenders more equal. It holds that all who have a "genuine opportunity to become qualified" be given a chance to do so and it is sometimes based on a recognition that unfairness exists, hindering
social mobility Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between Social stratification, social strata in a society. It is a change in social status relative to one's current social location ...
, combined with a sense that the unfairness should not exist or should be lessened in some manner. One example postulated was that a warrior society could provide special nutritional supplements to poor children, offer scholarships to military academies and dispatch "warrior skills coaches" to every village as a way to make opportunity substantively more fair. The idea is to give every ambitious and talented youth a chance to compete for prize positions regardless of their circumstances of birth. The substantive approach tends to have a broader definition of extraneous circumstances which should be kept out of a hiring decision. One editorial writer suggested that among the many types of extraneous circumstances which should be kept out of hiring decisions was personal beauty, sometimes termed "
lookism Lookism is a term that describes the discriminatory treatment of people who are considered physically unattractive. It occurs in a variety of settings, including dating, social environments, and workplaces. Physical unattractiveness has receive ...
": The substantive position was advocated by
Bhikhu Parekh Bhikhu Chotalal Parekh, Baron Parekh, (born 4 January 1935) is a British political theorist, academic, and life peer. He is a Labour Party member of the House of Lords. He was Professor of Political Theory at the University of Hull from 1982 ...
in 2000 in ''Rethinking Multiculturalism'', in which he wrote that "all citizens should enjoy equal opportunities to acquire the capacities and skills needed to function in society and to pursue their self-chosen goals equally effectively" and that "equalising measures are justified on grounds of justice as well as social integration and harmony". Parekh argued that equal opportunities included so-called cultural rights which are "ensured by the politics of recognition".
Affirmative action Affirmative action refers to a set of policies and practices within a government or organization seeking to increase the representation of particular groups based on their gender, race, sexuality, creed or nationality in areas in which they are u ...
programs usually fall under the substantive category. The idea is to help disadvantaged groups get back to a normal starting position after a long period of
discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People may be discriminated on the basis of Racial discrimination, r ...
. The programs involve government action, sometimes with resources being transferred from an advantaged group to a disadvantaged one and these programs have been justified on the grounds that imposing
quotas Quota may refer to: Economics * Import quota An import quota is a type of trade restriction A trade restriction is an artificial restriction on the trade Trade involves the transfer of goods or services from one person or entity to an ...
counterbalances the past discrimination as well as being a "compelling state interest" in diversity in society. For example, there was a case in
São Paulo São Paulo (, ; Portuguese for 'Saint Paul') is a city in the Southeast Region, Brazil, Southeast Region of Brazil. Listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, GaWC as an global city, alpha global city, the Municipalities of ...

São Paulo
in
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 mill ...

Brazil
of a quota imposed on the
São Paulo Fashion Week The São Paulo Fashion Week is an clothing trade show held semi-annually in São Paulo. It is notable as "Latin America's pre-eminent fashion event" and it is of the emerging fashion weeks, outside the ''Big Four'' of New York Fashion Week, New Yo ...
to require that "at least 10 percent of the models to be black or indigenous" as a coercive measure to counteract a "longstanding bias towards white models". It does not have to be accomplished via government action: for example, in the 1980s in the United States, President
Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan ( ; February 6, 1911June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the and of the . The president directs the of ...

Ronald Reagan
dismantled parts of affirmative action, but one report in the ''
Chicago Tribune The ''Chicago Tribune'' is a daily newspaper based in Chicago (''City in a Garden''); I Will , image_map = , map_caption = Interactive maps of Chicago , coordinates = , coordinates_footnote ...

Chicago Tribune
'' suggested that companies remained committed to the principle of equal opportunity regardless of government requirements. In another instance, upper-middle-class students taking the
Scholastic Aptitude Test The SAT ( ) is a standardized test A standardized test is a test Test(s), testing, or TEST may refer to: * Test (assessment), an educational assessment intended to measure the respondents' knowledge or other abilities Arts and entertainme ...
in the United States performed better since they had had more "economic and educational resources to prepare for these test than others". The test itself was seen as fair in a formal sense, but the overall result was seen as nevertheless unfair. In
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...

India
, the
Indian Institutes of Technology The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are autonomous public technical universities located across India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies ...
found that to achieve substantive equality of opportunity the school had to reserve 22.5 percent of seats for applicants from "historically disadvantaged schedule castes and tribes". Elite universities in
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
began a special "entrance program" to help applicants from "impoverished suburbs".


Equality of fair opportunity

Philosopher
John Rawls John Bordley Rawls (; February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ori ...
offered this variant of substantive equality of opportunity and explained that it happens when individuals with the same "native talent and the same ambition" have the same prospects of success in competitions. Gordon Marshall offers a similar view with the words "positions are to be open to all under conditions in which persons of similar abilities have equal access to office". An example was given that if two persons X and Y have identical talent, but X is from a poor family while Y is from a rich one, then equality of fair opportunity is in effect when both X and Y have the same chance of winning the job. It suggests the ideal society is "classless" without a social hierarchy being passed from generation to generation, although parents can still pass along advantages to their children by
genetics Genetics is a branch of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, ...

genetics
and
socialization In sociology, socialization is the process of Internalisation (sociology), internalizing the Norm (social), norms and Ideology, ideologies of society. Socialization encompasses both learning and teaching and is thus "the means by which social an ...
skills. One view suggests that this approach might advocate "invasive interference in family life". Marshall posed this question: Economist
Paul Krugman Paul Robin Krugman ( ; born February 28, 1953) is an American economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts f ...
agrees mostly with the Rawlsian approach in that he would like to "create the society each of us would want if we didn't know in advance who we'd be". Krugman elaborated: "If you admit that life is unfair, and that there's only so much you can do about that at the starting line, then you can try to ameliorate the consequences of that unfairness".


Level playing field

Some theorists have posed a level playing field conception of equality of opportunity, similar in many respects to the substantive principle (although it has been used in different contexts to describe formal equality of opportunity) and it is a core idea regarding the subject of
distributive justice Distributive justice concerns the Social justice, socially just Resource allocation, allocation of resources. Often contrasted with procedural justice, just process, which is concerned with the administration of law, distributive justice concentra ...
espoused by
John Roemer John E. Roemer (; born February 1, 1945 in Washington, D.C., to Ruth Roemer and Milton Roemer, namesake of Roemer's law) is an American economist and political scientist. He is currently the Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political S ...
and
Ronald Dworkin Ronald Myles Dworkin (; December 11, 1931 – February 14, 2013) was an American philosopher, jurist, and scholar of United States constitutional law. At the time of his death, he was Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York ...
and others. Like the substantive notion, the level playing field conception goes farther than the usual formal approach. The idea is that initial "unchosen inequalities" – prior circumstances over which an individual had no control, but which impact his or her success in a given competition for a particular post – these unchosen inequalities should be eliminated as much as possible, according to this conception. According to Roemer, society should "do what it can to level the playing field so that all those with relevant potential will eventually be admissible to pools of candidates competing for positions". Afterwards, when an individual competes for a specific post, he or she might make specific choices which cause future inequalities – and these inequalities are deemed acceptable because of the previous presumption of fairness. This system helps undergird the legitimacy of a society's divvying up of roles as a result in the sense that it makes certain achieved inequalities "morally acceptable", according to persons who advocate this approach. This conception has been contrasted to the substantive version among some thinkers and it usually has ramifications for how society treats young persons in such areas as
education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion ...

education
and
socialization In sociology, socialization is the process of Internalisation (sociology), internalizing the Norm (social), norms and Ideology, ideologies of society. Socialization encompasses both learning and teaching and is thus "the means by which social an ...
and
health care Healthcare is the maintenance or improvement of health Health, according to the , is "a state of complete physical, and social and not merely the absence of and ".. (2006)''Constitution of the World Health Organization''– ''Basic Docume ...

health care
, but this conception has been criticized as well.
John Rawls John Bordley Rawls (; February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ori ...
postulated the difference principle which argued that "inequalities are justified only if needed to improve the lot of the worst off, for example by giving the talented an incentive to create wealth".


Meritocracy

There is some overlap among these different conceptions with the term ''
meritocracy Meritocracy (''merit'', from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
'' which describes an administrative system which rewards such factors as individual
intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for abstraction, logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. More generally, it can be des ...
,
credentials A credential is a piece of any document that details a qualification, competence, or authority issued to an individual by a third party with a relevant or ''de facto'' authority or assumed competence to do so. Examples of credentials include ac ...

credentials
,
education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion ...

education
,
morality Morality (from ) is the differentiation of intention Intentions are mental states in which the agent commits themselves to a course of action. Having the plan to visit the zoo tomorrow is an example of an intention. The action plan is the '' ...

morality
,
knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to e ...
or other criteria believed to confer merit. Equality of opportunity is often seen as a major aspect of a meritocracy. One view was that equality of opportunity was more focused on what happens before the race begins while meritocracy is more focused on fairness at the competition stage. The term ''meritocracy'' can also be used in a negative sense to refer to a system in which an elite hold themselves in power by controlling access to merit (via access to education, experience, or bias in assessment or judgment).


Moral senses

There is general agreement that equality of opportunity is good for society, although there are diverse views about how it is good since it is a
value judgementA value judgment (or value judgement) is a judgment of the right (ethics), rightness or wrongness of something or someone, or of the usefulness of something or someone, based on a comparison or other relativity. As a generalization, a value judgment ...
. It is generally viewed as a positive political ideal in the abstract sense. In nations where equality of opportunity is absent, it can negatively impact
economic growth Economic growth can be defined as the increase or improvement in the inflation-adjusted market value of the goods and services produced by an economics, economy over time. Statisticians conventionally measure such growth as the percent rate of i ...

economic growth
, according to some views and one report in
Al Jazeera Al Jazeera ( ar, الجزيرة, translit-std=DIN, translit=al-jazīrah, , literally "The Island", though referring to the Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَ ...
suggested that
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
,
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous , after in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11. ...

Tunisia
and other
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task whi ...

Middle East
ern nations were stagnating economically in part because of a dearth of equal opportunity. The principle of equal opportunity can conflict with notions of
meritocracy Meritocracy (''merit'', from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
in circumstances in which
individual differences Differential psychology studies the ways in which individuals differ in their behavior and the processes that underlie it. This is a discipline that develops classifications (taxonomies) of psychological individual differences. This is distinguis ...
in human abilities are believed to be determined mostly by
genetics Genetics is a branch of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, ...

genetics
as in such circumstances there can be conflict about how to achieve fairness in such situations.


Practical considerations


Difficulties with implementation

There is general agreement that programs to bring about certain types of equality of opportunity can be difficult and that efforts to cause one result often have unintended consequences or cause other problems. There is agreement that the formal approach is easier to implement than the others, although there are difficulties there too. A government policy that requires equal treatment can pose problems for lawmakers. A requirement for government to provide equal health care services for all citizens can be prohibitively expensive. If government seeks equality of opportunity for citizens to get health care by rationing services using a maximization model to try to save money, new difficulties might emerge. For example, trying to ration health care by maximizing the "quality-adjusted years of life" might steer monies away from disabled persons even though they may be more deserving, according to one analysis. In another instance, BBC News questioned whether it was wise to ask female army recruits to undergo the same strenuous tests as their male counterparts since many women were being injured as a result. Age discrimination can present vexing challenges for policymakers trying to implement equal opportunity. According to several studies, attempts to be equally fair to both a young and an old person are problematic because the older person has presumably fewer years left to live and it may make more sense for a society to invest greater resources in a younger person's health. Treating both persons equally while following the letter of the equality of opportunity seems unfair from a different perspective. Efforts to achieve equal opportunity along one dimension can exacerbate unfairness in other dimensions. For example, public bathrooms: If for the sake of fairness the physical area of men's and women's bathrooms is equal, the overall result may be unfair since men can use urinals, which require less physical space. In other words, a more fair arrangement may be to allot more physical space for women's restrooms. The sociologist
Harvey Molotch Harvey Luskin Molotch (born January 3, 1940) is an American sociologist known for studies that have reconceptualized power relations in interaction, the mass media, and the city. He helped create the field of environmental sociology and has advanc ...

Harvey Molotch
explained: "By creating men's and women's rooms of the same size, society guarantees that individual women will be worse off than individual men."
Harvey Molotch Harvey Luskin Molotch (born January 3, 1940) is an American sociologist known for studies that have reconceptualized power relations in interaction, the mass media, and the city. He helped create the field of environmental sociology and has advanc ...

Harvey Molotch

"The Rest Room and Equal Opportunity"
'' Sociological Forum'', Vol. 3, No. 1 (Winter, 1988), pp. 128–132, Retrieved September 1, 2016
Another difficulty is that it is hard for a society to bring substantive equality of opportunity to every type of position or industry. If a nation focuses efforts on some industries or positions, then people with other talents may be left out. For example, in an example in the ''
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' (''SEP'') combines an online encyclopedia An online encyclopedia, also called an Internet encyclopedia, or a digital encyclopedia, is an encyclopedia An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia (British E ...
'', a warrior society might provide equal opportunity for all kinds of people to achieve military success through fair competition, but people with non-military skills such as farming may be left out. Lawmakers have run into problems trying to implement equality of opportunity. In 2010 in
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...

Britain
, a legal requirement "forcing public bodies to try to reduce inequalities caused by class disadvantage" was scrapped after much debate and replaced by a hope that organizations would try to focus more on "fairness" than "equality" as fairness is generally seen as a much unclear concept than equality, but easier for politicians to manage if they are seeking to avoid fractious debate. In
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
, mayor
Ed Koch Edward Irving Koch ( ; December 12, 1924February 1, 2013) was an American politician, lawyer, political commentator, film critic, and television personality. He served in the United States House of Representatives The United States Ho ...
tried to find ways to maintain the "principle of equal treatment" while arguing against more substantive and abrupt transfer payments called minority set-asides. Many countries have specific bodies tasked with looking at equality of opportunity issues. In the United States, for example, it is the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that was established via the Civil Rights Act of 1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 () is a landmark civil rights and United States labor law, labor law in the Un ...
; in
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...

Britain
, there is the Equality of Opportunity Committee as well as the Equality and Human Rights Commission; in
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, ...

Canada
, the
Royal Commission on the Status of Women The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of ...
has "equal opportunity as its precept"; and in
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
, the Equal Opportunities Commission handles matters regarding ethnic prejudice. In addition, there have been political movements pushing for equal treatment, such as the Women's Equal Opportunity League which in the early decades of the twentieth century, pushed for fair treatment by employers in the United States. One of the group's members explained: Global initiatives such as the United Nations
Sustainable Development Goal 5 Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5 or Global Goal 5) concerns gender equality Gender equality, also known as sexual equality or equality of the sexes, is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gende ...

Sustainable Development Goal 5
and are also aimed at ensuring equal opportunities for women at all levels of decision making, and reducing inequalities of outcome.


Difficulties with measurement

The consensus view is that trying to measure equality of opportunity is difficult whether examining a single hiring decision or looking at groups over time. * Single instance. It is possible to reexamine the procedures governing a specific hiring decision, see if they were followed and re-evaluate the selection by asking questions such as "Was it fair? Were fair procedures followed? Was the best applicant selected?". This is a judgment call and it is possible that biases may enter into the minds of decision-makers. The determination of equality of opportunity in such an instance is based on mathematical
probability Probability is the branch of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained ...

probability
: if equality of opportunity is in effect, then it is seen as fair if each of two applicants has a 50 per cent chance of winning the job, that is, they both have equal chances to succeed (assuming of course that the person making the probability assessment is unaware of all variables – including valid ones such as talent or skill as well as arbitrary ones such as race or gender). However, it is hard to measure whether each applicant had in fact a 50 per cent chance based on the outcome. * Groups. When assessing equal opportunity for a type of job or company or industry or nation, then
statistical analysis Statistical inference is the process of using data analysis to infer properties of an underlying probability distribution, distribution of probability.Upton, G., Cook, I. (2008) ''Oxford Dictionary of Statistics'', OUP. . Inferential statistical ...
is often done by looking at patterns and abnormalities, typically comparing subgroups with larger groups on a percentage basis. If equality of opportunity is violated, perhaps by
discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People may be discriminated on the basis of Racial discrimination, r ...
which affects a subgroup or population over time, it is possible to make this determination using statistical analysis, but there are numerous difficulties involved. Nevertheless, entities such as city governments and universities have hired full-time professionals with knowledge of statistics to ensure compliance with equal opportunity regulations. For example,
Colorado State University Colorado State University (Colorado State or CSU) is a Public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is the flagship university of the Colorado State University System. Colorado St ...
requires their director of its Office of Equal Opportunity to maintain extensive statistics on its employees by job category as well as minorities and
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is ...

gender
. In Britain,
Aberystwyth University , mottoeng = A world without knowledge is no world at all , established = 1872 (as ''The University College of Wales'') , former_names = University of Wales, Aberystwyth , type = Public In public relatio ...

Aberystwyth University
collects information including the "representation of women, men, members of racial or ethnic minorities and people with disabilities amongst applicants for posts, candidates interviewed, new appointments, current staff, promotions and holders of discretionary awards" to comply with equal opportunity laws. It is difficult to prove unequal treatment although statistical analysis can provide indications of problems, but it is subject to conflicts over interpretation and methodological issues. For example, a study in 2007 by the
University of Washington The University of Washington (UW, simply Washington, or informally U-Dub) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization ...

University of Washington
examined its own treatment of
women A woman is an adult female Female (symbol: ♀) is the sex of an organism that produces the large non-mobile ovum, ova (egg cells), the type of gamete (sex cell) that fuses with the Sperm, male gamete during sexual reproduction. A female ...

women
. Researchers collected statistics about female participation in numerous aspects of university life, including percentages of
women A woman is an adult female Female (symbol: ♀) is the sex of an organism that produces the large non-mobile ovum, ova (egg cells), the type of gamete (sex cell) that fuses with the Sperm, male gamete during sexual reproduction. A female ...

women
with full professorships (23 per cent), enrollment in programs such as nursing (90 per cent) and engineering (18 per cent). There is wide variation in how these statistics might be interpreted. For example, the 23 per cent figure for women with full professorships could be compared to the total population of women (presumably 50 per cent) perhaps using census data, or it might be compared to the percentage of women with full professorships at competing universities. It might be used in an analysis of how many women applied for the position of full professor compared to how many women attained this position. Further, the 23 per cent figure could be used as a benchmark or baseline figure as part of an ongoing longitudinal analysis to be compared with future surveys to track progress over time. In addition, the strength of the conclusions is subject to statistical issues such as
sample size Sample size determination is the act of choosing the number of observations or replicates to include in a statistical sample In statistics and quantitative research methodology, a sample is a set of individuals or objects collected or selected ...
and
bias Bias is a disproportionate weight ''in favor of'' or ''against'' an idea or thing, usually in a way that is closed-minded Open-mindedness is receptiveness to new ideas. Open-mindedness relates to the way in which people approach the views and kn ...
. For reasons such as these, there is considerable difficulty with most forms of statistical interpretation. Statistical analysis of equal opportunity has been done using sophisticated examinations of computer databases. An analysis in 2011 by
University of Chicago The University of Chicago (UChicago) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an abse ...
researcher Stefano Allesina examined 61,000 names of
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
professors by looking at the "frequency of last names", doing one million random drawings and he suggested that Italian academia was characterized by violations of equal opportunity practices as a result of these investigations. The last names of Italian professors tended to be similar more often than predicted by random chance. The study suggested that newspaper accounts showing that "nine relatives from three generations of a single family (were) on the economics faculty" at the
University of Bari The University of Bari Aldo Moro ( it, Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro) is a higher education institution in Bari Bari ( , ; nap, label= Barese, Bare ; lat, Barium; grc, Βάριον, translit=Bárion) is the capital city of the Met ...
were not aberrations, but indicated a pattern of
nepotism Nepotism is a form of favoritism which is granted to relatives in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, religion and other activities. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to important positions by C ...
throughout Italian academia. There is support for the view that often equality of opportunity is measured by the criteria of
equality of outcome Equality of outcome, equality of condition, or equality of results is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social ...
, although with difficulty. In one example, an analysis of relative equality of opportunity was done based on outcomes, such as a case to see whether hiring decisions were fair regarding men versus women—the analysis was done using statistics based on average salaries for different groups. In another instance, a cross-sectional statistical analysis was conducted to see whether
social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those soc ...
affected participation in the
United States Armed Forces The United States Armed Forces are the Military, military forces of the United States of America. The armed forces consists of six Military branch, service branches: the United States Army, Army, United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps, Uni ...

United States Armed Forces
during the
Vietnam War {{Infobox military conflict , conflict = Vietnam War , partof = the Indochina Wars The Indochina Wars ( vi, Chiến tranh Đông Dương) were a series of wars fought in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled ...
: a report in ''
Time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component quantity of various me ...
'' by the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, aft ...
suggested that soldiers came from a variety of social classes and that the principle of equal opportunity had worked, possibly because soldiers had been chosen by a
lottery A lottery is a form of gambling Gambling (also known as betting) is the wagering something of Value (economics), value ("the stakes") on an Event (probability theory), event with an uncertain outcome with the intent of winning something e ...
process for
conscription Conscription, sometimes called the draft in the United States, is the mandatory enlistment of people in a national service National service is a system of either compulsory or voluntary government service, usually military service Mili ...

conscription
. In college admissions, equality of outcome can be measured directly by comparing offers of admission given to different groups of applicants: for example, there have been reports in newspapers of
discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People may be discriminated on the basis of Racial discrimination, r ...
against
Asian Americans Asian Americans are Americans Americans are the Citizenship of the United States, citizens and United States nationality law, nationals of the United States of America.; ; ''Ricketts v. Attorney General''897 F.3d 491, 494 n.3 (3d Cir. 20 ...
regarding
college admissions in the United States College admissions in the United States refers to the process of applying for entrance to institutions of higher education Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-s ...
which suggest that Asian American applicants need higher grades and test scores to win admission to prestigious universities than other ethnic groups.


Marketplace considerations

Equal opportunity has been described as a fundamental basic notion in
business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit." Having a business name A trad ...

business
and
commerce Commerce is the exchange of goods and services, especially on a large scale. Etymology The English-language word ''commerce'' has been derived from the Latin word ''commercium'', from ''com'' ("together") and ''merx'' ("merchandise"). History ...

commerce
and described by
economist An economist is a professional and practitioner in the social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , pl ...

economist
Adam Smith Adam Smith ( 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher as well as a moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and ...

Adam Smith
as a basic economic precept. There has been research suggesting that "competitive markets will tend to drive out such discrimination" since employers or institutions which hire based on arbitrary criteria will be weaker as a result and not perform as well as firms which embrace equality of opportunity. Firms competing for overseas contracts have sometimes argued in the press for equal chances during the bidding process, such as when American oil corporations wanted equal shots at developing oil fields in
Sumatra Sumatra is one of the Sunda Islands The Sunda Islands are a group of islands in the Malay Archipelago. They consist of the Greater Sunda Islands The Greater Sunda Islands are four tropical islands situated within Southeast Asia S ...

Sumatra
; and firms, seeing how fairness is beneficial while competing for contracts, can apply the lesson to other areas such as internal hiring and promotion decisions. A report in ''
USA Today ''USA Today'' (stylized in all uppercase) is an American daily middle-market newspaper A middle-market newspaper is a newspaper that caters to readers who like entertainment as well as the coverage of important news events. Middle-market sta ...
'' suggested that the goal of equal opportunity was "being achieved throughout most of the business and government labor markets because major employers pay based on potential and actual productivity". Fair opportunity practices include measures taken by an organization to ensure efficiency effectiveness and fairness in the employment process. A basic definition of equality is the idea of equal treatment and respect. In job advertisements and descriptions, the fact that the employer is an equal opportunity employer is sometimes indicated by the abbreviations EOE or MFDV, which stands for Minority, Female, Disabled, Veteran. Analyst Ross Douthat in ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'' suggested that equality of opportunity depends on a rising
economy An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ...

economy
which brings new chances for
upward mobility Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between social strata in a society. It is a change in social status Social status is the level of social value a person is conside ...
and he suggested that greater equality of opportunity is more easily achieved during "times of plenty". Efforts to achieve equal opportunity can rise and recede, sometimes as a result of economic conditions or political choices. Empirical evidence from public health research also suggests that equality of opportunity is linked to better health outcomes in the United States and Europe.


History

According to professor David Christian (historian), David Christian of Macquarie University, an underlying Big History trend has been a shift from seeing people as resources to exploit towards a perspective of seeing people as individuals to empower. According to Christian, in many ancient agrarian civilizations, roughly nine of every ten persons was a peasant exploited by a ruling class. In the past thousand years, there has been a gradual movement in the direction of greater respect for equal opportunity as political structures based on generational hierarchies and feudalism broke down during the late Middle Ages and new structures emerged during the Renaissance. monarchy, Monarchies were replaced by
democracies Democracy ( gr, δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polit ...

democracies
: kings were replaced by parliaments and congresses. Slavery was also abolished generally. The new entity of the nation state emerged with highly specialized parts, including corporations, laws and new ideas about citizenship as well as values about individual rights found expression in constitutions, laws and statutes. In the United States, one legal analyst suggested that the real beginning of the modern sense of equal opportunity was in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment which provided "equal protection under the law". The amendment did not mention equal opportunity directly, but it helped undergird a series of later rulings which dealt with legal struggles, particularly by
African Americans African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being t ...
and later women, seeking greater political and economic power in the growing republic. In 1933, a congressional "Unemployment Relief Act" forbade
discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People may be discriminated on the basis of Racial discrimination, r ...
"on the basis of race, color, or creed". The Supreme Court of the United States, Supreme Court's 1954 ''Brown v. Board of Education'' decision furthered government initiatives to end discrimination. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925 which enabled a presidential committee on equal opportunity, which was soon followed by President Lyndon B. Johnson's Executive Order 11246. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 became the legal underpinning of equal opportunity in employment. Businesses and other organizations learned to comply with the rulings by specifying fair hiring and promoting practices and posting these policy notices on bulletin boards, employee handbooks and manuals as well as training sessions and films. Courts dealt with issues about equal opportunity, such as the 1989 Wards Cove decision, the Supreme Court ruled that statistical evidence by itself was insufficient to prove racial discrimination. The
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that was established via the Civil Rights Act of 1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 () is a landmark civil rights and United States labor law, labor law in the Un ...
was established, sometimes reviewing charges of discrimination cases which numbered in the tens of thousands annually during the 1990s. Some law practices specialized in employment law. Conflict between formal and substantive approaches manifested itself in backlashes, sometimes described as reverse discrimination, such as the Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, Bakke case when a white male applicant to medical school sued on the basis of being denied admission because of a quota system preferring minority applicants. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Americans with Disabilities Act prohibited discrimination against disabled persons, including cases of equal opportunity. In 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prevents employers from using genetic information when Recruitment, hiring, firing, or Promotion (rank), promoting employees.Statement of Administration policy
Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, April 27, 2007


Measures

Many economists measure the degree of equal opportunity with measures of economic mobility. For instance, Joseph Stiglitz asserts that with five economic divisions and full equality of opportunity, "20 percent of those in the bottom fifth would see their children in the bottom fifth. Denmark almost achieves that – 25 percent are stuck there. Britain, supposedly notorious for its class divisions, does only a little worse (30 percent). That means they have a 70 percent chance of moving up. The chances of moving up in America, though, are markedly smaller (only 58 percent of children born to the bottom group make it out), and when they do move up, they tend to move up only a little". Similar analyses can be performed for each economic division and overall. They all show how far from the ideal all industrialized nations are and how correlated measures of equal opportunity are with income inequality and wealth inequality. Equal opportunity has ramifications beyond income; the American Human Development Index, rooted in the capabilities approach pioneered by Amartya Sen, is used to measure opportunity across geographies in the U.S. using health, education and standard of living outcomes.


Criticism

There is agreement that the concept of equal opportunity lacks a precise definition. While it generally describes "open and fair competition" with equal chances for achieving sought-after jobs or positions as well as an absence of
discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People may be discriminated on the basis of Racial discrimination, r ...
, the concept is elusive with a "wide range of meanings". It is hard to measure, and implementation poses problems as well as disagreements about what to do. There have been various criticisms directed at both the substantive and formal approach. One account suggests that left-leaning thinkers who advocate equality of outcome fault even formal equality of opportunity on the grounds that it "legitimates inequalities of wealth and income". John W. Gardner suggested several views: (1) that inequalities will always exist regardless of trying to erase them; (2) that bringing everyone "fairly to the starting line" without dealing with the "destructive competitiveness that follows"; (3) any equalities achieved will entail future inequalities. Substantive equality of opportunity has led to concerns that efforts to improve fairness "ultimately collapses into the different one of equality of outcome or condition". Economist Larry Summers advocated an approach of focusing on equality of opportunity and not equality of outcomes and that the way to strengthen equal opportunity was to bolster public education. A contrasting report in ''The Economist'' criticized efforts to contrast equality of opportunity and equality of outcome as being opposite poles on a hypothetical ethical scale, such that equality of opportunity should be the "highest ideal" while equality of outcome was "evil". Rather, the report argued that any difference between the two types of equality was illusory and that both terms were highly interconnected. According to this argument, wealthier people have greater opportunities – wealth itself can be considered as "distilled opportunity" – and children of wealthier parents have access to better schools, health care, nutrition and so forth. Accordingly, people who endorse equality of opportunity may like the idea of it in principle, yet at the same time they would be unwilling to take the extreme steps or "titanic interventions" necessary to achieve real intergenerational equality. A slightly different view in ''The Guardian'' suggested that equality of opportunity was merely a "buzzword" to sidestep the thornier political question of income inequality. There is speculation that since equality of opportunity is only one of sometimes competing "justice norms", there is a risk that following equality of opportunity too strictly might cause problems in other areas. A hypothetical example was suggested: suppose wealthier people gave excessive amounts of campaign contributions; suppose further that these contributions resulted in better regulations; and then laws limiting such contributions on the basis of equal opportunity for all political participants may have the unintended long term consequence of making political decision-making lackluster and possibly hurting the groups that it was trying to protect. Philosopher John Kekes makes a similar point in his book ''The Art of Politics'' in which he suggests that there is a danger to elevating any one particular political good – including equality of opportunity – without balancing competing goods such as justice, property rights and others. Kekes advocated having a balanced perspective, including a continuing dialog between cautionary elements and reform elements. A similar view was expressed by
Ronald Dworkin Ronald Myles Dworkin (; December 11, 1931 – February 14, 2013) was an American philosopher, jurist, and scholar of United States constitutional law. At the time of his death, he was Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York ...
in ''The Economist'': Economist
Paul Krugman Paul Robin Krugman ( ; born February 28, 1953) is an American economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts f ...
sees equality of opportunity as a "non-Utopian compromise" which works and is a "pretty decent arrangement" which varies from country to country. However, there are differing views such as by
Matt Cavanagh Matt Cavanagh (born 1971) is a British political adviser and author. He was a special adviser in the UK Labour government (2003–10). He worked for Home Secretary David Blunkett; for Chancellor Gordon Brown; for Defence Secretary Des Browne; and f ...
, who criticised equality of opportunity in his 2002 book ''Against Equality of Opportunity''. Cavanagh favored a limited approach of opposing specific kinds of discrimination as steps to help people get greater control over their lives.Against Equality of Opportunity , Matt Cavanagh , Review by The Spectator
Conservatism, Conservative thinker Dinesh D'Souza criticized equality of opportunity on the basis that "it is an ideal that cannot and should not be realized through the actions of the government" and added that "for the state to enforce equal opportunity would be to contravene the true meaning of the United States Declaration of Independence, Declaration and to subvert the principle of a free society". D'Souza described how his parenting undermined equality of opportunity: D'Souza argued that it was wrong for government to try to bring his daughter down, or to force him to raise up other people's children, but a counterargument is that there is a benefit to everybody, including D'Souza's daughter, to have a society with less anxiety about downward mobility, less class resentment and less possible violence. An argument similar to D'Souza's was raised in ''Anarchy, State, and Utopia'' by Robert Nozick, who wrote that the only way to achieve equality of opportunity was "directly worsening the situations of those more favored with opportunity, or by improving the situation of those less well-favored". Nozick gave an argument of two suitors competing to marry one "fair lady": X was plain while Y was better looking and more intelligent. If Y did not exist, then "fair lady" would have married X, but Y exists and so she marries Y. Nozick asks: "Does suitor X have a legitimate complaint against Y on the basis of unfairness since Y did not earn his good looks or intelligence?". Nozick suggests that there is no grounds for complaint. Nozick argued against equality of opportunity on the grounds that it violates the rights of property since the equal opportunity maxim interferes with an owner's right to do what he or she pleases with a property. Property rights were a major component of the philosophy of John Locke and are sometimes referred to as "Lockean rights". The sense of the argument is along these lines: equal opportunity rules regarding, say, a hiring decision within a factory, made to bring about greater fairness, violate a factory owner's rights to run the factory as he or she sees best; it has been argued that a factory owner's right to property encompasses all decision-making within the factory as being part of those property rights. That some people's "natural assets" were unearned is irrelevant to the equation according to Nozick and he argued that people are nevertheless entitled to enjoy these assets and other things freely given by others. Friedrich Hayek felt that luck was too much of a variable in economics, such that one can not devise a system with any kind of fairness when many market outcomes are unintended. By sheer chance or random circumstances, a person may become wealthy just by being in the right place and time and Hayek argued that it is impossible to devise a system to make opportunities equal without knowing how such interactions may play out. Hayek saw not only equality of opportunity, but all of social justice as a "mirage". Some conceptions of equality of opportunity, particularly the substantive and level playing field variants, have been criticized on the basis that they make assumptions to the effect that people have similar genetic makeups. Other critics have suggested that social justice is more complex than mere equality of opportunity. Nozick made the point that what happens in society can not always be reduced to competitions for a coveted position and in 1974 wrote that "life is not a race in which we all compete for a prize which someone has established", that there is "no unified race" and there is not some one person "judging swiftness".


See also


References


External links

* United Kingdom *
UK Government Women & Equality Unit
* United States *
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (US)
– the branch of the U.S. government that enforces equal opportunity laws in workplaces *
Department of the Interior Office for Equal Opportunity (US)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Equality of Opportunity
{{Authority control Discrimination Disability rights Anti-racism Equality rights Egalitarianism Liberalism Social inequality Right-wing politics Identity politics