Social equity

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Social equity is a concept that applies concerns of justice and fairness to social policy. Since the 1960s, the concept of social equity has been used in a variety of institutional contexts, including education and public administration.


The concept of social equity can be traced back to the works of Aristotle and Plato. Definitions of social equity can vary, but all focus upon the ideals of justice and fairness. Equity in old societies involves the role of public administrators, who are responsible for ensuring that social services are delivered equitably. This implies taking into account historical and current inequalities among groups; fairness is dependent on this social and historical context.[1]

In public administration[edit]

Attention to social equity in the field of public administration in the United States arose during the 1960s, amid growing national awareness of civil rights and racial inequality.[1]

The National Academy of Public Administration defines the term as “The fair, just and equitable management of all institutions serving the public directly or by contract; the fair, just and equitable distribution of public services and implementation of public policy; and the commitment to promote fairness, justice, and equity in the formation of public policy.”[2]

In 1968, H. George Frederickson articulated "a theory of social equity" and put it forward as the 'third pillar' of public administration.[3] Frederickson was concerned that those in public administration were making the mistake of assuming that citizen A is the same as citizen B; ignoring social and economic conditions. His goal: for social equity to take on the same "status as economy and efficiency as values or principles to which public administration should adhere."[3]

Gender and sexuality[edit]

Recent[when?] administration from former U.S. President Barack Obama has shed light on the subject of social equity for members of the LGBT community. From this community, the Obama-Biden administration appointed more than 170 openly LGBT professionals to work full-time within the executive branch. He has also directed United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct “the first ever national study to determine the level of discrimination experienced by LGBTs in housing”[4] Other LGBT advocacy interest groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign, have also worked hard to gain social equity in marriage and to receive all the benefits that come with marriage. Other references include: Mitchell, Danielle. "Reading Between The Aisles: Same-Sex Marriage As A Conflicted Symbol Of Social Equity." Topic: The Washington & Jefferson College Review 55.(2007): 89-100. Humanities Source. Web.


Within the realm of public administration, racial equality is an important factor.[according to whom?] It deals with the idea of “biological equality” of all human races and “social equality for people of different races”. According to Jeffrey B. Ferguson his article “Freedom, Equality, Race”, the people of the United States believe that racial equality will prevail.[citation needed]


In recent years[when?] social equity in regards to religion has seen legal improvements to help and protect all people regardless of religious affiliation or what deity they choose to follow. According to 42 U.S.C. sect. 2000e(j) "Religion is defined as all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to responsibly accommodate to an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice without unique hardship to the conduct of the employer's business."[5] This law was enacted to protect employees that are employed by bosses of another religion, and allow them to observe their particular religious practices and celebrations.

In sustainable development[edit]

In 1996 the United States President's Council on Sustainable Development defined social equity as "equal opportunity, in a safe and healthy environment." Social equity is the least defined and least understood element of the triad that is sustainable development yet is integral in creating sustainability - balancing economic, environmental and social equity.[according to whom?]

In education[edit]

Many colleges and universities consider the term social equity as synonymous with social equality. Examples include Shippensburg University, Edinboro University, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, Arizona State College of Public Programs, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and North Carolina State University, among others.[citation needed] However, this is an erroneous and misleading classification, because equity and equality are not interchangeable terms. Social equality denotes the idea that every individual receives the same opportunities and resources with no discrimination. Social equity, however, posits that each person should have access to the amount of opportunities and resources that they need specifically. The distinction between these two terms is important because it acknowledges that each person starts off with a different level of privilege in life, and therefore everyone will not have identical needs, due to factors like language, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity and gender.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gooden, Susan T. (2015). Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government. Routledge. pp. 13–18. ISBN 978-1-31-746145-6.
  2. ^ National Academy of Public Administration Archived 2009-05-06 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-06-12. Retrieved 2009-12-19.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Wesley, Joan Marshall, Ercilla Dometz Hendrix, and Jasmine N. Williams. "Moving Forward: Advancing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender Rights Under The Obama Administration Through Progressive Politics." Race, Gender & Class 18.3/4 (2011): 150-168. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web.
  5. ^ Malone, Michael D., Sandra J. Hartman, and Dinah Payne. "Religion In The Workplace: Disparate Treatment." Labor Law Journal 49.6 (1998): 1099-1105. Legal Source. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

Further reading[edit]