Economic Opportunity and Inequality

Opportunity is the idea that everyone should have a fair chance to pursue their dreams and talents. This often includes the right to enjoy whatever wealth they acquire, but it also encompasses an expectation that those who pursue success will face no insurmountable obstacles.

While people may agree that everyone should have the same level of opportunity, there is much disagreement about how to achieve it. Defenders of small government and individual responsibility on the right may favor a view resembling Formal Equality of Opportunity, which is centered around the idea that formal discriminatory rules should be removed from the path of achievement in certain situations. For example, policies aimed at this conception would include requirements that advertisements for jobs or schools do not specify racial or religious characteristics.

A more radical alternative is sometimes called a “level-playing field” approach, which differs from equality of outcome by assuming that the goal is for people to be free to pursue what they value most. This does not prohibit inequality from arising in the process, but it does not oppose it either.

In fact, our survey found that respondents who were most optimistic about Economic Opportunity were those who were least concerned about inequality. This is true even when adjusting for other demographic factors, such as income or education levels. For example, first- and second-generation immigrants were among the most optimistic groups despite reporting being more likely to face barriers to employment. Opportunity

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