How Useful is Inequality of Opportunity as a Policy Construct?

20 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2015

See all articles by Ravi Kanbur

Ravi Kanbur

Cornell University; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Adam Wagstaff

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2015

Abstract

The academic literature on equality of opportunity has burgeoned. More recently, the concepts and measures have begun to be used by policy institutions, including in specific sectors like health and education. Indeed, it is argued that one advantage of focusing on equality of opportunity is that policy makers are more responsive to that discourse than on equality of outcomes per se. This paper presents a critique of equality of opportunity in the policy context. While the empirical analysis to which the literature has given rise is useful and is to be welcomed, current methods for quantifying and implementing the concept with a view to informing the policy discourse face a series of fundamental questions that remain unanswered. Without a full appreciation of these difficulties, these methods may prove to be misleading in the policy context.

Keywords: equality of opportunity, inequality, inequality of opportunity, inequality of outcome

JEL Classification: D31, D63

Suggested Citation

Kanbur, Ravi and Wagstaff, Adam, How Useful is Inequality of Opportunity as a Policy Construct? (March 2015). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP10508. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2584025

Ravi Kanbur (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

301-J Warren Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-7966 (Phone)
607-255-9984 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.kanbur.dyson.cornell.edu

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Adam Wagstaff

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States

HOME PAGE: http://econ.worldbank.org/staff/awagstaff

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