Equity vs. Equality: What’s the Difference - Examples & Definitions (2022)

“Equity” and “equality” are not synonymous. Find out the difference between equity and equality and why United Way NCA is championing equity in the region.

June 22, 2021Equity: the quality of being fair and impartial.

Equality: the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities.

(Video) Equity and Equality

It’s hard to see the difference between those two definitions, and many people assume they are synonymous. In the social justice and racial justice movements though, equity and equality have distinct and important differences.

United Way of the National Capital Area champions equity for all, regardless of race, gender, income, ability or zip code. But what does equity mean, really? What does United Way NCA mean when we talk about reaching equity for all? Below, we break down the difference between equity and equality, why the difference matters for marginalized people and how United Way NCA is creating a more equitable future for the National Capital Area.

What is the Definition of Equity?

Equity, in its simplest terms as it relates to racial and social justice, means meeting communities where they are and allocating resources and opportunities as needed to create equal outcomes for all community members.

What is the Definition of Equality?

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources and opportunities, regardless of their circumstances. In social and racial justice movements, equality can actually increase inequities in communities as not every group of people needs the same resources or opportunities allocated to them in order to thrive.

Equity vs Equality: What’s the Difference?

Equity recognizes each person has different circumstances and needs, meaning different groups of people need different resources and opportunities allocated to them in order to thrive.

(Video) Equity Vs Equality

Equality, on the other hand, is giving everyone the exact same resources across the board, regardless of individual or groups of people’s actual needs or opportunities/resources already provided to them.

In equitable programs like United Way NCA’s work, instead of giving each individual or group of people the same resources (by definition, equality), data is analyzed to determine where funds, resources and opportunities need to be allocated most in order to give all community members the same opportunity to thrive.

If you have researched the differences between equity and equality before, you have probably come across this helpful illustration of an apple tree created by Tony Ruth, with two children standing below it in hopes of receiving fallen fruit. In the “inequality” version of the illustration, it shows two boys standing under the tree. The tree is slightly slanted toward the left, and therefore the apples are falling all on the left side, to one boy. The boy on the right receives nothing. When they are both given a ladder of the same height (equality) the boy on the left gets even more apples than he did on the ground, but the boy on the right still receives none—his ladder is not tall enough to reach the tree. When the boy on the left is given a ladder of the exact height he needs to reach the tree, he receives more apples, and when the boy on the right receives a slightly taller ladder than the boy on the left (based on his individual needs), he too is able to finally reach the tree and collect apples. This example shows there is not a one-size-fits-all solution (equality) to the problems we see in the world, but there’s a right-size solution for each individual’s needs (equity).

Equity vs. Equality: What’s the Difference - Examples & Definitions (1)Equity vs. Equality: What’s the Difference - Examples & Definitions (2)

Equity and Justice

Practicing equity helps address imbalanced social systems. However, justice can take equity one step further by changing societal systems in order to achieve sustainable and equitable access for future generations in the long-term.

(Video) Equity vs. Equality

Equity vs. Equality: What’s the Difference - Examples & Definitions (3)

What are Examples of Equity?

    1) Leaders in the National Capital Area host an information meeting for all community members on the COVID-19 pandemic, testing, vaccinations and more. They host this event multiple times in different languages including English, Spanish and Korean to serve all major populations. This way, everyone hears the same information in their native or primary language.
    • 2) Low-income students in a Prince George’s County neighborhood do not have access to the internet and don’t own computers, making it difficult for them to complete lessons and homework assignments through their school’s virtual, at-home school year during the pandemic. On the other hand, other students throughout the county have affordable access to Wi-Fi, laptops and other needed digital tools to succeed in school. A local nonprofit sees this data and allocates funds to supply the students without internet access with Wi-Fi hotspots and laptops but does not give hotspots or laptops to the students who already have access to these tools. Now, all students have the tools they need in order to succeed in a virtual learning environment.

What are Examples of Equality?

Let’s look at the same situations we noted in the section above, but instead of finding equitable outcomes, we’ll describe what they would look like if equality had been the focus.

1) Leaders in the National Capital Area host an information meeting for all community members on the COVID-19 pandemic, testing, vaccinations and more. They only host the meeting once, and it is only held in the English language. There are no translators or separate meetings for residents who do not speak English or speak English as a second language, isolating a large population of the National Capital Area from receiving important and potentially life-saving health information.

2) Low-income students in a Prince George’s County neighborhood do not have access to the internet and don’t own computers, making it difficult for them to complete lessons and homework assignments through their school’s virtual, at-home school year during the pandemic. On the other hand, other students throughout the county have affordable access to Wi-Fi, laptops and other needed digital tools to succeed in school. A local nonprofit allocates funds to give each student in the county a laptop, but because they do not have enough funds to supply both laptops and hotspots to every student, they are unable to provide any student with a Wi-Fi hotspot. The students that did not have internet access beforehand in their homes now have a laptop but still cannot access their school’s virtual classrooms and therefore miss lessons and homework assignments throughout the school year.

How is United Way NCA Improving Equity?

United Way of the National Capital Area believes everyone deserves hope, respect and a fair chance. That’s why we’re creating a more equitable future for all community members by breaking down barriers in health, education and economic opportunity.

(Video) What is Equity vs Equality? | The Difference Explained | IB Macroeconomics

United Way NCA reduces health disparities and improves health outcomes for individuals and families in the National Capital Area. Our health programs increase equity in access to health resources that promote physical and mental well-being among students and families. Find out how we’re doing this here.

We also reduce academic disparities and improve academic outcomes for young people in the National Capital Area by focusing on the education pipeline from middle school to college and/or career success, working in Title I schools to address attendance, behavior and course performance through our Community Schools program. Find out why United Way NCA focuses on middle school students and more information on our programmatic work surrounding education here.

United Way NCA also reduces wealth disparities and improves economic opportunities with financial training and workforce development for individuals and families in the National Capital Area. We do this by providing residents with economic opportunity and removing barriers to stable and affordable housing. Find out more details on our economic opportunity work here.

How Can You Practice and Promote Equity in Your Community?

There are many ways you can practice and promote equity in your community, household, workplace, place of worship, etc. The first step is to reflect on your own belief system. What implicit biases do you hold? How can you dismantle those? How can you educate yourself through books, media, diversity and inclusion seminars, etc. to understand equity further? In fall 2021, United Way NCA will launch a Practice Equity campaign, in which we will post ways community members can practice equity daily. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to stay tuned. You can also sign up for our 21 Day Race Equity Journey, a 21-day newsletter series, to learn more about unpacking how equity plays a role in determining outcomes of people through different stages of life depending on their intersections of race, gender, sexuality and/or socioeconomic standing.

To promote equity in your community, you need to get involved! Reaching an equitable future for all community members necessitates action. By supporting nonprofits and programs like United Way NCA, you can make a difference. This can be done through monetary donations, corporate sponsorships of programs, volunteering and advocating.

(Video) What's the difference between equity and equality?

To learn more about equity and how United Way NCA is achieving a more equitable future, visit unitedwaynca.org/equity and join the movement! When none are ignored, all will thrive.

About United Way of the National Capital Area

United Way of the National Capital Area improves the health, education and economic opportunity of every person in the National Capital community. United Way NCA has been improving lives by creating measurable impact in the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties for more than 45 years. In 2020, United Way NCA was among 384 organizations across the United States to receive a generous transformational investment from novelist and venture philanthropist, MacKenzie Scott. For more information about United Way of the National Capital Area, visit UnitedWayNCA.org.

FAQs

What is the difference between equity and equality What do those two words have to do with teaching and schooling? ›

Equality in education is necessary for students to have the same opportunities to start off with positive educational outcomes, and equity helps to make sure those equal opportunities are adjusted to make room for students who might need extra help and attention.

What is the difference between equity and equality? ›

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

What is a real life example of equity? ›

The goal of equity is to help achieve fairness in treatment and outcomes. It's a way in which equality is achieved. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was written so that people with disabilities are ensured equal access to public places.

What are the 3 types of equality? ›

While identifying different kinds of inequalities that exist in society, various thinkers and ideologies have highlighted three main dimensions of equality namely, political, social and economic.

What are the 5 types of equality? ›

Equality is divided into five rough types: political equality, equality of outcome or result, equality of opportunity, equality of treatment and equality of membership in society. These types of equality are described separately.

What is equity and examples? ›

Equity = Assets - Liabilities. The word “equity” can also be used to refer to personal finances. For instance, if someone owns a $400,000 home, and has a $150,000 mortgage on it, then the owner can say he has “$250,000 in equity”, in the property.

What is the simple definition of equity? ›

The term “equity” refers to fairness and justice and is distinguished from equality: Whereas equality means providing the same to all, equity means recognizing that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to imbalances.

What is equality in simple words? ›

What is equality? Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.

What is the difference between equity and equality in education? ›

To describe the difference between these two equality and equity in terms of fairness, equality is concerned with what is fair within a group, while equity focuses on what is fair for an individual.

What do you mean by equality and equity in education? ›

Equality is a system where everyone is treated in the identical way, without giving any attention to their needs and requirements. Equity is thus a situation in which each and every individual is granted same rights and facilities, irrespective of their individual differences.

What is the meaning of equity in education? ›

Equality in education is achieved when students are all treated the same and have access to similar resources. Equity is achieved when all students receive the resources they need so they graduate prepared for success after high school.

How do you teach equity in the classroom? ›

8 meaningful equity in the classroom strategies
  1. Start with yourself. ...
  2. Model equity for your students. ...
  3. Be flexible with online learning. ...
  4. Address inappropriate remarks. ...
  5. Create an equitable classroom environment. ...
  6. Accommodate different learning styles. ...
  7. Examine your teaching materials. ...
  8. Give students a voice.
3 Jun 2022

Videos

1. EQUITY VS EQUALITY: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? | MICK SPIERS
(The Leadership Project by Mick Spiers)
2. Equity vs Equality (Philosophical Distinction)
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3. Equity vs. Equality: What is the difference in our society today?
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4. Equity and Equality: What's the Difference?
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5. equity and equality
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6. Equity vs Equality - Is there a difference or are they pretty much the same thing?
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