Equality and Equity are not synonyms.
The words equality and equity are often confused because, at a glance, they appear to mean the same thing. They both have to do with the way people are treated, and both are used in the fields of law, government, economics, and so on. Often, these terms are used to describe actions, laws, or rules that are attempting to end or oppose injustice or unfair treatment of people.
However, equality and equity as noted above are not synonyms, and the methods used to achieve them are often very different.
What does equality mean?
The word equality is defined as “the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability.”
Equality is usually simple to understand: three buckets that all contain five apples are in a state of equality. They all have exactly the same amount of the exact same items.
Under the law, Americans have equality in the sense that nobody can be legally denied their rights based on any personal quality.
The word equity is defined as “the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness;
impartiality” or “something that is fair and just.” Equity is more complicated than equality.
The complication with equity is that people often disagree on what is “just” or “fair.” These are subjective concepts and, as a result, laws and policies that attempt to achieve equity are often challenged in court or are controversial.
The use of the word equity has increased due to concerns about social justice and a desire for fairness for historically oppressed groups. In the law, minority groups may have equal rights but are still treated unfairly.
Historically oppressed groups such as LGBTQ+ people, Black people, and Indigenous peoples have not only fought for equality, but continue to fight for equity in society.
How do we use equality and equity?
The best way to show the difference between equality and equity is with an example.
For example, if I gave a rich woman and a poor woman each $100 that would be an example of equality since I gave both the same amount of money.
Alternatively, if I gave a rich woman $100 and a poor woman $200, then it could be said I am trying to achieve equity by “fairly” giving the poor woman more help based on her financial situation.
Ideally, we would be able to achieve both equality and equity when it comes to the law and society, but this is usually very difficult.