Social Indicators Research

, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 73–99 | Cite as

Measuring Advances in Equality of Opportunity: The Changing Gender Gap in Educational Attainment in Canada in the Last Half Century

  • Gordon Anderson
  • Teng Wah LeoEmail author
  • Robert Muelhaupt


The notion of Equality of Opportunity (EO) has pervaded much of economic and social justice policy over the last half century in conveying a sense of liberation from the circumstances that constrain an individual’s ability to achieve it, and it has been a cornerstone of many gender equality programs. However unequivocal pursuit of the so called “Luck Egalitarianism” imperative has met with many critics who question why individuals who are blessed with good circumstances would wish to be “liberated” from them. This has led to a more qualified pursuit of Equal Opportunity which adds an additional proviso—that no circumstance group should be made worse off by such a policy or decentralized private initiative. Indeed observed practices, by focusing on the opportunities of the poorly endowed in circumstance, do accord with such a qualified Equal Opportunity mandate. Here it is contended that, because of the asymmetric nature of such a policy or initiative, existing empirical techniques will not fully capture the progress made toward an EO goal. Hence a new technique is introduced and employed in examining progress toward such a Qualified Equal Opportunity (QEO) Objective in the context of the educational attainments of Canadian males and females born between the 1920s and the 1970s (In the early part of that century, females did not perform as well as males educationally, and were much more constrained by their parental educational circumstance). A QEO goal is generally found to cohere with the data with females becoming less attached to their parental educational circumstance, and indeed surpassing males in their educational attainments.


Equality of opportunity Overlap measure 



We wish to thank John Roemer, Miles Corak, Jacques Silber, Markus Jantti, and seminar participants at the FEMES 2008 meeting, IARIW 2008 conference, University of Toronto, and Mount Allison University for their helpful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordon Anderson
    • 1
  • Teng Wah Leo
    • 2
    Email author
  • Robert Muelhaupt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsSt. Francis Xavier UniversityAntigonishCanada

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