Equality of opportunity is a choice

Tony Atkinson, the great British economist, encourages us to think of inequality as a choice, something that can be influenced by public policy.

If this is the case for equality of outcomes, then it is surely also so for equality of opportunity; the significant differences in social mobility between the rich countries hinting at the role governments play in determining the degree to which family background is destiny, the rich raising the next generation of rich adults, the poor seeing their children face low chances of upward mobility.

Some of these differences may simply reflect different social priorities, but others may teach us about the power of different policies. Continue reading “Equality of opportunity is a choice”

Economic theory and practical lessons for measuring equal opportunities

High Level Expert Group Workshop on Inequality of Opportunity January 2015 Paris OECD
High-Level Expert Group, January 2015, Paris

I’ve written a working paper based upon a presentation I made in January 2015 to a workshop on “Inequality of Opportunity” held by the High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. The OECD, which was one of the organizations co-hosting the workshop, is currently reviewing the paper for publication.

You can download the current draft here, and I’d invite any comments before it is finalized and officially released.

You can view the workshop agenda and all the presentations here. The broader program of the Expert Group, which includes the development of “distributional National Accounts”—national accounting that recognizes inequality and the distribution of income—can be found at this link.

What follows for quick reference is the introduction of my paper. If you have a chance to read the whole thing and have some thoughts to make it better, feel free to include your suggestions in the comment section at the end of this post, or email them to me.

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Continue reading “Economic theory and practical lessons for measuring equal opportunities”

Is the U.S. Still a ‘Land of Opportunity’?

The New York Times posed this question to a group of experts, Richard Florida, Isabel Sawhill, Timothy Smeeding, and five others, including me.

More specifically, they asked:

There is a growing consensus that it is harder to move up the economic ladder in the United States than in many other places, like Canada. Should more Americans consider leaving the U.S. to get ahead? Or can the U.S. make changes to be more of a “land of opportunity”?

Continue reading “Is the U.S. Still a ‘Land of Opportunity’?”