The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Equality of Opportunity

  • John E. Roemer
Reference work entry


Whereas the ethic of equality of outcome does not hold individuals responsible for actions that may create inequality of outcomes, equality of opportunity ‘levels the playing field’ so that all have potential to achieve equal outcomes; inequalities of outcome that then transpire are not compensable at the bar of justice. The influences on the outcome a person experiences comprise circumstances (for which he should not be held responsible) and effort (for which he should be). Equal-opportunity policy compensates persons for their disadvantaged circumstances, ensuring that, finally, only effort counts in achieving outcomes.


Affirmative action And parameters of disadvantage Compensation Distribution And effort vs circumstances Dworkin, R. On equality On insurance market Educational finance Efficiency And equity Equality of opportunity Vs equality of outcome Equality of outcome Vs equality of opportunity Vs equality of resources And compensation And efficiency Income-tax regime Insurance market Dworkin on Meritocracy Property rights And welfarism Welfarism Sen on And property rights Sen, A. And welfarism 

JEL Classifications

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Arneson, R. 1989. Equality and equal opportunity for welfare. Philosophical Studies 56: 77–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Betts, J., and J. Roemer. 2003. Equalizing opportunity through reform. In Schools and the equal opportunity problem, ed. P. Peterson and L. Woessmann. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Calsamiglia, C. 2005. Decentralizing equality of opportunity and issues concerning the equality of educational opportunity. Ph.D. dissertation. New Haven: Department of Economics, Yale University.Google Scholar
  4. Cohen, G. 1989. On the currency of egalitarian justice. Ethics 99: 906–944.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dworkin, R. 1981a. What is equality? Part one: Equality of welfare. Philosophy & Public Affairs 10: 185–246.Google Scholar
  6. Dworkin, R. 1981b. What is equality? Part two: Equality of resources. Philosophy & Public Affairs 10: 283–345.Google Scholar
  7. Fleurbaey, M., and F. Maniquet. 2004. Compensation and responsibility. In Handbook of social choice and welfare, ed. K. Arrow, A. Sen, and K. Suzumura, vol. 2. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  8. Roemer, J. 1993. A pragmatic theory of responsibility for the egalitarian planner. Philosophy & Public Affairs 22: 146–166.Google Scholar
  9. Roemer, J. 1996. Theories of distributive justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Roemer, J. 1998. Equality of opportunity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Roemer, J., R. Aaberge, U. Colombino, J. Fritzell, S. Jenkins, I. Marx, M. Page, E. Pommer, J. Ruiz-Castillo, M.J. San Segundo, T. Tranaes, G. Wagner, and I. Zubiri. 2003. To what extent do fiscal regimes equalize opportunities for income acquisition among citizens? Journal of Public Economics 87: 539–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Sen, A. 1979. Utilitarianism and welfarism. Journal of Philosophy 76: 463–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Van de Gaer, D. 1993. Equality of opportunity and investment in human capital. Ph.D. dissertation. Leuven: Catholic University of Leuven.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John E. Roemer
    • 1
  1. 1.