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Equalization of opportunity

Working Paper 2013-310

Abstract

This paper develops a criterion of opportunity equalization, that is consistent with theoretical views of equality of opportunity. Our analysis rests on the characterization of inequality of opportunity as a situation where some groups in society enjoy an illegitimate advantage. In this context, equalization of opportunity requires that the extent of the illegitimate advantage enjoyed by the privileged groups falls. Robustness requires that this judgement be supported by the broadest class of individual preferences. We formalize this criterion by resorting to a decision theory perspective and we derive an empirical condition for equalization of opportunity that is defined on the sole basis of observed opportunity distributions. We discuss observability constraints and offer an empirical testing procedure to implement this condition. Lastly, we apply these criteria to the study of the equalizing impact of educational policy in France.

Authors: Francesco Andreoli, Arnaud Lefranc.

Keywords: Equality of opportunity, public policy, inverse stochastic dominance, economic distance, income distribution.
JEL: D63, J62, C14.