June 1, 2009
The economic literature on equality of opportunity suggests non-welfarist foundations of social choice introducing the concepts of freedoms and liberties of individuals in the assessment of social welfare. The opportunity egalitarian principle does not focus on equality of outcomes but essentially on equality of means to realize those outcomes, i.e., it places some responsibilities on individuals to decide how much effort to pay in order to exploit the opportunity offered to them. This concept refers to be a part of conventional wisdom and has a long tradition and wide acceptance. On these grounds chapter 1 is devoted to a review of the most recent research on equality of opportunity. Some economists and political philosophers have argued that, in examining distributional questions, instead of focusing on differences in observed incomes or current levels of welfare, it is more appropriate to focus on the choice or opportunity sets that individuals face. Chapter 2 focus on the measurement of the degree of equality of opportunity based on alternative decompositions of the Atkinson index of equality according to welfare theory approach. In chapter 3 we address a measurement in health using data from the British Household Panel Survey (1996-2005). Our results suggest a great incidence of the direct effect of the individual behaviors in terms of lifestyles reducing the indirect contribution of social background. Public health programs are more likely to produce results if targeted on individual responsibility. A different point at issue is tackled in chapter 4 where we introduce the relationship between equality of opportunity and efficiency in the credit market. We show that richer individuals participate more in the credit market even when relatively more averse to effort violating the equality of opportunity principle. Moreover, we find that marginal richer borrowers exert less effort than poorer ones in equilibrium. Empirical evidence in Italy points to a limited impact of policy measures aimed at increasing credit opportunities without targeting accurately the beneficiaries.
not held in Res Lib - bibliographic reference only