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Inequality vs. Inequity

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  Marius Alza  —  Grammar Tips
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With “inequality” and “inequity”, it is less likely that the confusion appears because of their spellings. Even though they look quite similar, the frequent confusions that appear with this pair of words are not sourced in the spelling similarities, because it is quite obvious that these words to not refer to the same concept.

In fact, the meaning itself is the one that creates confusion. Both words relate to “equality”, and it is easy to confuse one for another not because they have similar written forms, but because their meanings also have a high level of similarity. Even so, there are some subtle differences between these concepts and understanding them will allow you to always use them in the correct contexts, without doubting that your message is unclear or that the way you are expressing your thoughts is not elegant. Below you have some clear explanations of the meanings of both words that will offer you a better perspective upon them.

Inequality vs. Inequity

The difference between “inequality” and “inequity” is very subtle. In fact, it is more about the context where these words are preferred, rather than the meanings themselves. Both nouns refer to a difference of equality, of equal treatment.

It’s quite easy to identify that “inequality” and “inequity” both have an important relevance for the word “equal” or “equality”. “Inequality” is an antonym for “equality”, whereas “inequity” is the opposite of “equity”. So just as “equality” and “equity” are close synonyms, the same applies for “inequality” and “inequity”. The difference appears, in both cases, in the contexts where these are used. More exactly, “inequity” can be used everywhere, referring to unfair situations or inequal results/amounts/treatments etc., whereas “inequality” is more official and formal, more frequently used in legal contexts or when referring to something unfair at a social scale. You can get a better understanding of these concepts below.

When do we use “inequality”?

“Inequality” is used to define an unfair situation in a society or community, a lack of fair treatment or equality in different groups or individuals, whether it’s about money, opportunities, religion, looks, preferences, race etc. “Inequality” carries the connotation of discrimination more than “inequity” does, because it is more frequently used to describe the different treatments, opportunities and advantages people get according to their social/financial statute in a community. This term is also the one more often used in the legal field.

Example: There is a major inequality of opportunity at his workplace, and that is that they care too much about age and gender before taking decisions regarding the promotion of their employees. –

“inequality” refers to inequal treatment between people and different chances to opportunities, because of social differences.

When do we use “inequity”?

“Inequity” might look similar to “inequality”, but this noun is more largely used to define unfair situations or unfair things in a certain situation. Anything that is not “equal” or “fair”, anything that has the quality of being “unfair” can be defined by “inequity”. This word is more often used in English and also includes the meaning of “inequality”.

Example: Gender inequity in school will still be a problem ten years later if we don’t take action now. – “inequity” can refer to any situation that is unfair or inequal.

Conclusion

Both “inequality” and “inequity” are nouns defining situations where people are not treated equally. The difference is given by the context where they are used. “Inequality” is subtly inducing the idea of discrimination more intensely than “inequity”, as “inequality” is more related to the discriminations from the society according to social statute, money, gender, preferences or age; whereas “inequity” can refer to inequal opportunities between different individuals in any context, at a larger scale.

Inequality vs. Inequity

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1 Comment
  • molly_f
    I believe you have this wrong — in fact, completely backward. From Grammarist.com: "Inequality refers primarily to the condition of being unequal, and it tends to relate to things that can be expressed in numbers. 1 Inequity, in its main sense, is a close synonym of injustice and unfairness, so it usually relates to more qualitative matters." From Global Health Europe: "Inequity and inequality: these terms are sometimes confused, but are not interchangeable, inequity refers to unfair, avoidable differences arising from poor governance, corruption or cultural exclusion while inequality simply refers to the uneven distribution of health or health resources as a result of genetic or other factors or the lack of resources."  
    LikeReply 13 years ago

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