Difference between Equity and Equality

Updated on May 31, 2017

Remember all those discussions where feminists were accused that instead of asking for equality, they were really after preferential treatment? The argument was that feminists wanted women to be treated like men, though were unable to do heavy lifting, for example. Here is where the term equality creates confusion and generates such an improper understanding of a fair demand. Once you learn the difference between equality and equity, it all becomes clear.

Definitions

Equality

Equality is a concept that ensures all people are treated equally and are given the same chances. It is a social concept used to secure rights, benefits, and an even distribution of resources among the members of the same community. Equal treatment means not being discriminated against based on race, age, gender, social class, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, disability etc.

In terms of fair distribution, equality is blind to needs and must make even portions so that everybody gets the same thing.

Equity is a concept that implies giving people what they need to succeed. In order to distribute resources based on this concept, you must understand everyone’s needs first and compensate for their shortcomings, to each according to his specific situation.

In a political setting, equity is difficult to achieve since it is up to the state institutions to recognize and be aware of each individual’s need and come up with separate support packages. This implies consistent logistics work, manpower, and the obligation to keep up with social evolution of each individual benefiting from state support.

Equality vs Equity

So what is the difference between equality and equity?

Equality tells us to distribute resources evenly among the members of a community and that they all have the same rights. Equity tells us to distribute resources according to the specific needs of each member and to give some of them extra support and social protection in order to compensate for various shortcomings – a poor background, no financial support, a disability, etc.

It is difficult to state which way is better because they do not apply to the same situation. Equality and access to resources is good when all members of the community have the same starting point. Equity is great when you need to even out the differences in a group that needs to give a unitary performance.

Both of them have wrong concept applications. Communism has tried its hand at giving all people the same access to resources, which was very limited. Socialism has tried to give people what the state thought they needed. And both types of regimes proved to be bad for the people.

Comparison Chart

EqualityEquity
Even distribution of resources and rightsDistribution of rights and resources based on needs
Is fair when applied to people who are already equalIs fair when it helps all community members succeed