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Understanding and Strengthening Social Equity

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Monique M. Maldonado
February 20, 2015

Maldonado febWhile some individuals believe social equity refers to affirmative action, gay rights or equality among women in the workforce/specific groups, others speculate it is a financial term such as interest, accruals or economical resources. What does it really mean?

Does it mean equality? Does it mean fairness to an entire population? Is it pertaining to minority groups?

Does it focus on a specific declining community? Or is it just referencing residual value?

The “Social” Aspect

According to Mary Guy and Sean McCandless of the Public Administration Review, “the difference is one of nuance: while equality can be converted into a mathematical measure in which equal parts are identical in size or number, equity is a more flexible measure allowing for equivalency while not demanding sameness.” While equity deals with an adjustable quantification, it also deals with fairness and justice on a societal level. With misconception of a term that has several meanings, it has been difficult to resolve social equity issues in governance such as societal progression based on socioeconomic conditions.

Social equity is often interchanged with social equality rights, which is based on judgment of abilities to take actions for specific groups, and is not necessarily indicative on fairness or justice. The concept is more of an equal opportunity idiom in reference to social development, which is beneficial to the majority of population. What makes social equity a problem within the general public is there isn’t any consistency between sprite and justice. What may be considered impartial or reasonable in a specific situation may not be the same in another, which hones in on equality versus equity. This affects the decision-making process within local, state and federal governments and delays mitigating society equity concerns.

The Fundamentals of Social Equity

The Reliable Prosperity website defines social equity as “fairness to access livelihood, education and full participation in the political and cultural life of the community as well as self-determination in meeting fundamental needs.” In other words, social equity is a diverse concept that is based on increased results that benefit the majority rather than the minority of a population. To add, the National Academy of Public Administration states social equity as the “fair, just, and equitable management of all institutions serving the public directly or by contract and it is committed to promoting fairness, justice, and equity in the formation of public policy.” Social equity is not based on treating all persons or communities the same. Instead, it is giving the same opportunities to all and though there might be an imbalance in who can receive those benefits (i.e., social or economical conditions), it is there for equitable distribution.

What Can Be Done to Strengthen Social Equity in Governance?

As previously stated, understanding social equity is the key to resolving issues within the government system as well as increasing social development. Knowing precise issues that focus on fairness, justice and unbiased management actions can strengthen societal impartiality and progress communities toward a stable economy. It does not matter if there is an accurate term for social equity because it is interpreted based on the organizations identifying specific needs.

As we can see, social equity has many definitions in education, economic matters, governmental concerns and public administration. However, key terms such as “justice,” “fairness” and “equitable” shows a prominent linkage in the meaning and should be used to practice good faith methods for collective social improvement.

Extensive research would be beneficial to explore specific methods to broaden social equity awareness. Social equity represents many “equality” values and should be treated as so to focus on economic standings, education and environment conservation matters. The primary key is making the right decision for all people and not specific groups as well as emphasizing fairness among communities so all can have the same benefits and opportunities.

The U.S. is one of the largest societies in the world that epitomizes fairness and justice. Everyone should have access to the same services without isolating specific groups based on age, socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender or sexuality. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. diaphanously stated, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


Author: Monique M. Maldonado is a U.S. Air Force active service member and adjunct professor. She teaches for the School of Graduate and Degree Completion Programs in the Department of Criminal Justice at Tiffin University. She is a doctoral candidate at Walden University, completing her degree in public policy and administration with a specialization in terrorism, medication and peace. Maldonado can be reached at [email protected].

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One Response to Understanding and Strengthening Social Equity

  1. Sarah N Reply

    February 23, 2015 at 8:38 am

    This was an interesting read since I didn’t know there was a difference between social equity and equality. I appreciate the research and understanding and I think the article was well written. I apologize because I intended to give the article 4 stars and for some reason only 1 showed. I hate to affect the credit of your article.

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