Equal Rights: Equal Outcome vs. Equal Opportunity

Posted on 28. May, 2015 by in Opinion

Every modern democratic society strives to achieve equality across every measurable ethnic, gender, or socio-economic demographic.

Equality breaks down when different interested parties misunderstand what societal equality actually means. Issues arise related to a misunderstanding as to the extent that equality can be regulated.

Equality can be approached from either a legal or experiential standpoint.

Equality from an experiential standpoint looks at the outcome individuals experience within society. This perspective takes that experience and attempts to change the legal and regulatory climate to produce an environment where any two individuals will see the same outcome from a set activity.

The graph below is a visual representation of this problem solving process. In order to achieve an outcome where all individuals perform at the same level (100% in the graph) the individual support provided (in blue) is tailored to the strengths of each individual (in orange).

Experiential Perspective

This method can be good at creating a scenario where all individuals achieve the same outcome. Although these individuals all achieve the same result they are actually being treated differently. This highlights a fundamental issue with the equal treatment of people using the experiential perspective.

This outcome-based approach also faces scalability, sustainability, and practicality issues. With so many people of different ethnicities, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses this approach is only successful if all groups and peoples are accurately segmented. With each group properly adjusted they can each receive the required support. Unfortunately, to equally support each group or person would not only be enormously expensive, but would also require constant re-adjustment of the level of support due to the ever changing abilities and prevalent issues of the target groups and persons.

The opportunity perspective of equality is concerned primarily with what is being provided to the individual. This methods takes a bottom-up approach and attempts to provide everyone with the same opportunity. In doing so, everyone is being treated equally by society.

In the graph below you can see the support given to each individual or group (in blue) is equal to every other, regardless of any variations in individual abilities or needs (in orange).

Oppertunity Perspective

This method, while not achieving the same outcome for each individual, is treating everyone the same. This method is much more sustainable and scalable than the outcome-based method. Any changes to the needs, support, or treatment of individuals (in red) can be changed for everyone at the same time. By only having one equal standard any additional groups or individuals that might need consideration would be easily integrated into the existing framework.

It should come as no surprise that the opportunity perspective is highly criticized and under-implemented even though it offers a fundamentally better system for equal treatment. With people making decisions predominantly off what they see and experience it is tough to someone that the experiential perspective of equality actually perpetuates inequality.

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