Equity vs. Equality: What’s the difference?

Understanding how equality and equity impact marginalized groups differently is crucial. Equality offers identical resources, while equity provides tailored support for fairness.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Introduction

Even while the words equality vs equity might seem similar, the use of one over the other can have very different effects on those who are marginalized.

To be equal is to provide every person or group with the same opportunities and resources. Recognizing that every individual is unique, equity distributes the precise opportunities and resources required to achieve parity.

Two people in the picture above have different accessibility to an arrangement, in this particular instance the fruit-bearing tree. Their unequal availability of the fruit persists even with similar help from equally distributed tools. However, the equitable method distributes the precise resources required for each individual to reach the fruit, benefiting both parties in the process.

Though social systems are not inherently unfair, it’s important to keep in mind that the tree seems to be part of a naturally existing system. For many years, these systems have been purposefully created to favor particular demographics, and as a result, even though the system’s results seem unintentional, they are really deeply ingrained discriminatory behaviors and beliefs.

Equality and Equity aren’t the same thing

It’s common to mix the terms equity and equality because they seem to signify the identical thing at first glance. Both deal with how individuals are regarded and are applied in a variety of contexts, including law, politics, economics, and so forth. These expressions are frequently used to refer to policies, regulations, and other initiatives that aim to prevent or oppose discriminatory treatment of individuals.

However, as was already mentioned, equality vs equity are not synonymous, and there are frequently significant differences in the approaches taken to attain them.

What is meant by Equality?

Equality can be described as “the condition or attribute to become equal; equality in amount, degree, value, status, or aptitude.”

Equality is typically easy to comprehend: there is equality if there are 3 buckets with five apples in each. Each of them possesses an identical quantity of each thing.

Americans enjoy equal legal standing in that no one can have their liberties lawfully withheld on the basis of any personal characteristic.

“The characteristic of being impartial and fair; fairness; impartiality” or “a thing that’s just and fair” are the definitions of equity.

Compared to equality, equity is far more complex.

People sometimes differ on what is “fair” or “just,” which complicates the issue of equity. Since these ideas are arbitrary, laws and initiatives that aim to attain equity are frequently contested in courts or generate controversy.

Concerns over fairness and the need for justice for traditionally marginalized groups have led to a rise in the usage of the term equity. Even with equal rights under the constitution, minority groups nevertheless face discrimination.

Historically marginalized groups have battled for equity within society as well as for equality, including Black people, Indigenous peoples, and LGBTQ+ people.

How are equality vs equity used?

One of the easiest ways to illustrate the equality vs equity distinction is through an example.

Giving $100 to each of the two women, for instance, would constitute an instance of equality because I would be giving each of them an equal sum of money.

Alternatively, it may be argued that I am attempting to create equity via “fairly” providing the poor lady with more assistance given her financial circumstances if I handed the rich woman one hundred dollars and the poor woman two hundred dollars.

In a perfect world, equality and equity would be possible in both the legal system and the community, but it is typically highly challenging.

Nonetheless, understanding the distinction between equality vs equity may help you better understand the objective someone is attempting to accomplish and the appropriate term to utilize when describing it.

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