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Journal Articles Journal of Economic Literature Year : 2016

Equality of Opportunity: Theory and Measurement


During the last third of the twentieth century, political philosophers actively debated about the content of distributive justice; the ruling ethical view of utilitarianism was challenged by various versions of equality of opportunities. Economists formulated several ways of modeling these ideas, focusing upon how individuals are placed with respect to opportunities for achieving various outcomes, and what compensation is due to individuals with truncated opportunities. After presenting a review of the main philosophical ideas (section 2), we turn to economic models (sections 3 and 4). We propose a reformulation of the definition of economic development, replacing the utilitarian measure of GDP per capita with a measure of the degree to which opportunities for income acquisition in a nation have been equalized. Finally, we discuss issues that the econometrician faces in measuring inequality of opportunity, briefly review the empirical literature (section 6), and conclude (section 7).


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hal-01446191 , version 1 (27-09-2023)



John E. Roemer, Alain Trannoy. Equality of Opportunity: Theory and Measurement. Journal of Economic Literature, 2016, 54 (4), pp.1288--1332. ⟨10.1257/jel.20151206⟩. ⟨hal-01446191⟩
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