Equality of Opportunity

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Harvard University Press, Jun 30, 2009 - Business & Economics - 128 pages
John Roemer points out that there are two views of equality of opportunity that are widely held today. The first, which he calls the nondiscrimination principle, states that in the competition for positions in society, individuals should be judged only on attributes relevant to the performance of the duties of the position in question. Attributes such as race or sex should not be taken into account. The second states that society should do what it can to level the playing field among persons who compete for positions, especially during their formative years, so that all those who have the relevant potential attributes can be considered. Common to both positions is that at some point the principle of equal opportunity holds individuals accountable for achievements of particular objectives, whether they be education, employment, health, or income. Roemer argues that there is consequently a "before" and an "after" in the notion of equality of opportunity: before the competition starts, opportunities must be equalized, by social intervention if need be; but after it begins, individuals are on their own. The different views of equal opportunity should be judged according to where they place the starting gate which separates "before" from "after." Roemer works out in a precise way how to determine the location of the starting gate in the different views.

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1 Introduction
2 Circumstances Types and Autonomous Choice
3 Justifying the Proposal
4 A Formal Definition of Equality of Opportunity
5 Incentive Properties of the EOp Mechanism
6 Equality of Opportunity with Production
7 Equality of Opportunity for Welfare
8 Equality of Opportunity for Health
10 EqualOpportunity Unemployment Insurance
11 The EOp Distribution of Educational Financein the United States
12 The Scope and Extent of Equal Opportunity
13 To What Extent Should We Equalize Opportunities?
14 Affirmative Action
15 Concluding Remarks

9 Education and Advantage

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Page 17 - Nomological statements bring together predicates that we know a priori are made for each other — know, that is, independently of knowing whether the evidence supports a connection between them. 'Blue,' 'red,
Page 2 - Common to all these views, however, is the precept that the equal-opportunity principle, at some point, holds the individual accountable for the achievement of the advantage in question, whether that advantage be a level of educational achievement, health, employment status, income, or the economist's utility or welfare. Thus there is, in the notion of equality of opportunity, a "before...
Page 1 - Roemer, for example, this idea means that 'society should do what it can to "level the playing field" among individuals who compete for positions, or, more generally, that it level the playing field among individuals during their periods of formation, so that all those with relevant potential will eventually be admissible to pools of candidates competing for positions'.
Page 22 - Asian" zu den redistributiv zu bewirtschaftenden Umständen gehört oder nicht. „The issue, then, is whether to include , Asian' as an element of circumstance. If we do not, then the fact that Asian children work harder in school will be attributed to their autonomous effort rather than to a cultural circumstance, and they will be more rewarded than they would be if we factor out the effect of familial pressure on their behaviour"(John E.
Page 5 - ... field among individuals during their periods of formation, so that all those with relevant potential will eventually be admissible to pools of candidates competing for positions'. The 'mounds and troughs in the playing field' correspond to 'the differential circumstances for which they [ie individuals] should not be held accountable and which affect their ability to achieve or have access to the kind of advantage that is being...
Page 43 - The choice with regard to smoking a person makes is in part determined by his circumstances — say, his economic class, his ethnicity, whether his parents smoked, and his level of education — and is in part a matter of autonomous choice. One might question whether "economic class" and "level of education" should properly be "circumstances," since there is an aspect of autonomous choice in determining them.
Page 90 - There is, however, an important difference in the nature of the attack in these two applications. With regard to the competition for positions, the attack maintains that the most competent candidate should win the job competition, but with regard to university admissions, it maintains that race is not a good measure of disadvantage. Even Ward Connerly, the University of California Regent who spearheaded the successful campaign to end affirmative action admissions policies in the University of California...
Page 1 - I call the nondiscrimination principle, states that, in the competition for positions in society, 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. An instance of the first principle is...
Page 44 - ... is the expected value of life for a year, conditional upon having smoked for y years. Let us suppose that the Ministry of Health designs an insurance policy under which everyone who contracts the disease will be treated; the question is how to assess insurance premiums on the population in question. Suppose the ministry, for the sake of simplicity, assigns premiums which are linear functions of the number of years persons have smoked.

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About the author (2009)

John Roemer is Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political Science and Economics, Yale University.

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