, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 187-210

Measuring and implementing equality of opportunity for income

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Departing from the welfarist tradition, recent theories of justice focus on individual opportunities as the appropriate standard for distributive judgments. To explore how this philosophical conception can be translated into concrete public policy, we select the income as relevant outcome and the income tax as the relevant redistributive policy, and we address the following questions: (i) what is the degree of opportunity inequality in an income distribution? (ii) how to design an opportunity egalitarian income tax policy? Several criteria for ranking income distributions on the basis of equality of opportunities are derived. Moreover, we characterize an opportunity egalitarian income tax and we formulate criteria for choosing among alternative tax schedules.

I would like to thank Peter Lambert for his encouragement and guidance, and Walter Bossert, Maurice Salles, and partecipants at the 1998 Social Choice and Welfare Conference, Vancouver, and at the Conference on “Non–Welfaristic Issues in Normative Economics” in Caen for their helpful comments and suggestions. Financial support of the Ministero dell’Istruzione, Università e Ricerca (Italy) is gratefully acknowledged. Responsibility for any remaining deficiency is mine.