Equity is defined as equality of opportunity or equality in access to goods and services. Inequities between boys and girls in educational access, between males and females in access to credit and job opportunities, inequities between the poor and the rich in access to land, education, essential health, water and other services, all have a bearing on poverty reduction. In other words, a person's life prospects should not be influenced by circumstances of birth, gender, race, family wealth and class or creed. These factors are outside his or her control and social ethics demands that these factors not determine the destiny of a person.
Inequities abound before a child is born, during early childhood and remainder of one’s life on earth. It is now recognized that one's parental heritage, nationality, social-pecking order, class, religious up-bringing, and incomes of parents and assets of family make a large difference to a person's opportunities in terms of life expectancy, education, access to services, and economic prospects. For example, infant mortality rates vary markedly both within and across countries. In El Salvador and most developing countries, babies born to mothers with no schooling are four times more likely to die before their first birthday than babies whose mothers are better educated. Similarly, children from the wealthiest quartile of households, or with mothers with more than 12 years of education, experience cognitive development in line with international norms (normalized to stay at 100 for all age groups). Inequalities in opportunity are repeated over time and across generations, through economic, sociocultural, and political mechanisms, which are called Inequality Traps.
To provide for greater equity, policymakers need to begin with protection of the poorest and vulnerable (i.e. reverse the order of things). There is a need to invest in people; expand access to justice, land, and infrastructure; and promote fairness in markets domestically but also in the international arena by focusing on the functioning of global markets and the rules that govern them. All this involves improving the quality of basic education for all, preventive health care, and risk management to deal with shocks associated with the weather, health, and labor incomes; to improve market functioning the policy makers need to focus on rural roads for market access, tenurial security for peasants and slum dwellers, and microcredit. In the political arena, access to justice, accountability of basic service providers, and local democracy are important. The relationship between the powerful, the privileged and growth-sapping structures of protection and rents is mirrored in many countries sustaining regressive subsidies for university schooling, pensions, and health services, protecting industrial sectors, concentrated financial systems, and corrupt-privatizations dominated by the powerful.
- Advances in Development Economics