At the heart of so many modern political and cultural disputes is the conflict between equity of outcome and equality of opportunity. Activists concerned with race, gender, or even class struggle centralise ‘equity’ above all else – indeed, the definition of structural racism amounts to little more than the absence of equity of outcome.
Classical liberals champion equality of opportunity instead: the idea that everyone can rise above the circumstances of their birth. Yet rarely do we give much thought to what this means, or measure how we are tracking towards this goal.
The UK Social Mobility Commission is an attempt to live up to this promise. Social mobility – the likelihood that someone born towards the bottom of the income distribution can make it to the top – is a key metric of equality of opportunity.