Grammar Chaos: The Difference between Equity and Equality

Posted on Jan 23, 2019

Wishing the world to be fair is a well-known sentiment. Sometimes, people make big speeches about equality to persuade and inspire audiences to help their kin—but they’re actually talking about equity. It’s important to be familiar with the subject to avoid disconnect, so consider this question: is it equity or equality? These two words sound alike, but they have important differences that define their role in the pursuit of social justice and their function in rhetoric. We’re here to break these differences down to make these two loaded words easier to use in our everyday struggle.

Equity Equality

By definition, equality is “the state of being equal,” meaning that one “regards or affects all objects in the same way.” For example, one would demonstrate equality if they saw all kinds of cookies as delicious and worthy of praise. Equality also refers to being “of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another.” Cakes that consistently offer the same scrumptious flavor are excellent examples, as they always have the same amount of ingredients in them. Other definitions of equality refer to a state of being “free from extremes,” such as having a calm mind or a proportionate shape, and of having the capacity to “meet requirements of a situation or task” as in having a job that’s in equality with one’s skills.

Equity, on the other hand, focuses more on fairness and impartiality. It refers to “justice according to natural law or right” and operates on “dealing fairly and equally with all concerned” so that they all reach the same state. Say, you see a starving duck, a hungry duck, and a duck that just finished mealtime, and you have three slices of bread. Equity would be giving two slices to the starving duck, one to the hungry duck, and leaving the satiated duck be. This allows all three ducks to be on the same level of fullness, thereby achieving equity. There’s also an economic definition of equity, but that’s a whole box of candies to unwrap for another day (trust us—it’s complicated).

On discussions about people and society where these two words are commonly used, equality would be giving everyone the same things (e.g., rights, access, treatment, etc.), and equity would be giving people what they need to be on the same level as everyone else (e.g., prosthetic legs, financial assistance, improved compensation schemes, etc.).

Let’s have some more sample sentences for further demonstration:

  1. Every Christmas season, each employee receives a goodie bag that each contains a block of cheese, a packet of tomato sauce, and a kilo of uncooked pasta: an echo of the company’s promise to champion equality and Christmas traditions.
  2. Louise, ever the paragon of equity, carried her little sister on her shoulders, giving her a view above the towering crowd from where she could watch the enchanting fire dancers.

  1. Head Librarian Selta spoke of equality for all learners as she unveiled her plan to open all sections of the library to all visitors.
  2. Upon sharing the miners’ trade routes, the king proclaimed that equality is what the peasants needed, but the prince corrected him: what would truly help them is equity in the form of significantly higher compensation for their produce and smaller tax cuts.

  1. The fairies maneuvered a deal of equality with the humans, granting them the right to enter human government.
  2. The dressmakers have repeatedly told their employers that they needed equity more than equality; they needed more livable wages than the monthly freebies the desk staff received.

As can be observed, equity is more targeted where equality takes on a broader approach. One can also treat equity as the means to an end—and in this case, the desired outcome is equality.

After all this, we should all be on equal terms when it comes to understanding these two words. One could say that writing and publishing this article is an act of equity, while letting everyone access this site freely demonstrates equality. But enough examples—I think we’ve had it for the day. Now if you’ve got other questions on grammar and writing, just drop a line and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Until then!


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