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Causal bias in measures of inequality of opportunity

Ackermans, Lennart B. (2022) Causal bias in measures of inequality of opportunity. [Preprint]

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Abstract

In recent decades, economists have developed methods for measuring the country-wide level of inequality of opportunity. The most popular method, called the ex-ante method, uses data on the distribution of outcomes stratified by groups of individuals with the same circumstances, in order to estimate the part of outcome inequality that is due to these circumstances. I argue that these methods are potentially biased, both upwards and downwards, and that the unknown size of this bias could be large. To argue that the methods are biased, I show that they ought to measure causal or counterfactual quantities, while the methods are only capable of identifying correlational information. To argue that the bias is potentially large, I illustrate how the causal complexity of the real world leads to numerous non-causal correlations between circumstances and outcomes and respond to objections claiming that such correlations are nonetheless indicators of unfair disadvantage, that is, inequality of opportunity.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Ackermans, Lennart B.ackermans@esphil.eur.nl0000-0003-0071-2270
Additional Information: Forthcoming in Synthese
Keywords: inequality of opportunity, measurement, causal modelling, confounding, facts and values
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Economics
General Issues > Ethical Issues
General Issues > Science and Society
Depositing User: Lennart Ackermans
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2022 22:14
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2022 22:14
Item ID: 21186
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Economics
General Issues > Ethical Issues
General Issues > Science and Society
Date: 20 September 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/21186

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