Equality of Opportunity as a Measure of Development

Friday, 25 February, 2022

Equality of Opportunity as a Measure of Development

Policy Brief by UNDP | Originally published on 26 January 2022

A society, regardless of average income, education and public health, is not truly developed unless all its citizens receive equal opportunities. An individual achieves success through three categories: an individual’s choice, an individual’s circumstances, and the public policy that enables economic and social environments in which an individual can find success despite their circumstances. Public policies should target specific categories that can make it more difficult for individuals to achieve equal social and economic opportunities, thus achieving success in their society. Four uncontroversial and universal circumstance that impact a person’s circumstances are parental income or educational level, ethnicity, gender, and upbringing in a rural versus urban household.

This paper explains how public policies should combat the unfair disadvantages the above circumstances impress upon an individual if they do not experience unequal advantages, such as status advantages that come from belonging to certain ethnic or caste group, socioeconomic advantages, network and positional advantages that derive from living in the right place at the right time, and biological advantages that result from living without physical or mental disability. In addition to specific nations implementing policy changes that better address unequal opportunities, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) can also address this issue by determining regionally and nationally specific unequal opportunity circumstances—including income, education and health status—and collecting data on how to implement policies that will be most effective at reducing inequalities of opportunity in each country.  

Access the full document here or download the attached PDF of the policy brief.