Equity vs. Equality

The definitions of equity and equality are very similar.   Equity is, “The quality of being fair and impartial.”  Equality is,” The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” 

But the actual usage is very different. Equity is frequently used to imply an equal result.  Unions talk of equity of pay meaning that all who have the same job description get the same pay and benefits.  It doesn’t discuss how the persons get to the same job.  But it does discuss the fairness of treatment once the job is achieved.  

Equality is frequently used in association with the phrase, “equal opportunity.”  It implies the fairness at the beginning of the process.  In the Declaration of Independence it is said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (persons) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

To promote equality, we have desegregated schools.  The expectation is that all the students in the same class get the same opportunity to learn.  We all know that is more of a hope than a reality.  But any form of segregation makes sure that equal opportunity won’t happen.  

Fair housing laws have desegregated neighborhoods or at least made our best attempt to that end.  At least systematic desegregation is a change that attempts to make equal opportunity into equitable results.  The difference in results depends on the individual.  

So, though the two words, equity and equality, come from the same root stem, they have an important difference in meaning.  

Holly Geddes