The Difference Between ‘Equity’ and ‘Equality’

You probably use the words “equity” and “equality” interchangeably when you’re writing or talking, without even thinking about it.

But as it turns out, these two words actually have very different meanings.

Equality, in essence, means that everyone starts the race at the same time and with the resources, even though some people are positioned way behind the starting line. Equity is about divvying up resources based on need, which helps level the playing field.

According to the World Health Organization,

“Equity is the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically.”

This illustration from artist Angus Maguir and the Interaction Institute for Social Change really helps drive home the point:

Photo Credit: Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguir

The illustration helps show what it looks like when everyone stands on the same sized platform, versus what it looks like when everyone has the same opportunity to see over the fence. Pretty cool, huh?

If some of your friends and family members are having a hard time grasping these two different concepts, it might help to share the above illustration with them. Sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words, after all.

What do you think about this distinction between equality and equity? Do you agree that resources should be distributed based on need?

We’d love to hear from you!

Let us know in the comments!