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Chapter 4 - Equality of Opportunity

Abstract : The modern formulation of equality of opportunity emerges from discussions in political philosophy from the second half of the twentieth century beginning with Rawls (1971) and and . Equality of opportunity exists when policies compensate individuals with disadvantageous circumstances so that outcomes experienced by a population depend only on factors for which persons can be considered to be responsible. Importantly, inequality of opportunity for income exists when individuals’ incomes are in some important part determined by the educational achievement and income of the families that raised them. We review the philosophical debates referred to, commenting upon them from an economist's viewpoint. We propose several ways of modeling equality (or inequality) of opportunity, pointing out that an equal-opportunity ethic implies a non-welfarist way of ranking social outcomes. We propose that economic development should be conceived of as the equalization of opportunities for income in a country. We consider equalization of opportunity from a dynamic viewpoint, and we review popular attitudes with regard to distributive justice, showing that there is substantial popular support for an equal-opportunity ethic. We discuss the empirical issues that emerge in measuring inequality of opportunity and provide a review of the empirical literature that measures degrees of inequality of opportunity for the achievement of various objectives, in various countries.
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Submitted on : Friday, February 3, 2017 - 11:59:00 PM
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John E. Roemer, Alain Trannoy. Chapter 4 - Equality of Opportunity. Atkinson, Antony and Bourguignon, François. Handbook of Income Distribution, 2, Elsevier, pp.217--300, 2015, Handbook of Income Distribution. ⟨hal-01456129⟩

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