Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Equity and Equality

freedomEquity vs Equality

One of the differences is the fact that equality obviously denotes that everyone is at the same level, whereas equity, in business parlance, denotes the ownership of the shares of a company. Equality alludes to the identical apportionment where dealings, values or qualities are concerned. Equity represents fairness, or what may be termed as the equality of outcomes. This involves factoring in aspects of the system that have put particular groups at a disadvantage.

An example, which would bring out the principal difference between the two, would be how a turkey may be carved up at at family’s dinner table. Equality would mean that everybody ‘“ father, mother and children – would get a piece of the same size. Equity, on the other hand, would mean that they take the sensible option, and divide it according to their needs, i.e. larger sized pieces for the adult and smaller pieces for the children.

When we say equity, we refer to the qualities of justness, fairness, impartiality and even handedness. When we talk about equality, we are talking about equal sharing and exact division.

A perfect example of the practical demonstration of the difference between the two concepts, is the feminist movement. Now, if women demand they should be treated in the same way as men, that would not be possible – equality would not be possible – because women and men are different, and cannot be treated in exactly the same way. However, if they demanded equity in how the world treats them, it would be a genuine demand, because now they are demanding that they be given the same rights as men have as human beings. It is equity that is desirable, not sameness.

Once again, in business parlance, equity denotes the value of something. Suppose I bought a laptop for $500 a year ago, and tried selling it today. It would probably fetch around $250. That is its equity value. Equality, of course, only means exact distribution. Really the difference between the two alludes to the old debate about the preference of quality over quantity.

If one were to take a classical example to distinguish between the two concepts, one could go back to the days of the cold war when the communist block countries tried to practice equality by paying everyone the same, irrespective of their station in life. The capitalist block, on the other hand, paid according to merit and productivity. The efficacy of the later approach, is brought out by the subsequent collapse of the communist order.

Therefore, although seeming to be similar, equity and equality are indeed very different kettles of fish.


1. Equality denotes that everyone is at the same level, whereas equity in business parlance denotes the ownership of the shares of a company.

2. Equity refers to the qualities of justness, fairness, impartiality and even handedness, while equality is about equal sharing and exact division.

3. Equality equals quantity, whereas equity equals quality.

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  1. Thanks for this article. Whoever wrote this, I thank you for differentiating things. It makes sense since a lot of people today do not practice proper diction, or proper choice of words.

  2. Manisha (the author), you’ve got a fan in me! You’ve clarified equity vs. equality justly… FYI, it would be interesting to read Islamic principles which (I believe) follow the equity principle as you’ve described it. Be blessed…

    • it would be interesting to read Islamic principles which (I believe) follow the equity principle as you’ve described it. Be blessed…

      Interesting indeed! 🙂

  3. Great article, I’m actually taking a class in anthropology right now, and this really helps a lot!

  4. Not trying to dispute the correctness of the article… but, it seems a bit strange to me that:

    Equality – E-Quality – is constructed as regarding Quantity

    while E-quity is regarding to Quality

    Now isn’t that confusing?

    What does the E-part mean then?

  5. I like this article a lot because I’ve never thought to compare the idea of equity vs equality. They used to look like two completely different words that only sound similar so I thought this article was kind of a joke. But it makes sense and I especially love the example of the feminist movement as I’ve never thought of it like that before

  6. Thank you for the distinction between Equality and Equity. In Taylor Caldwell’s “Dialogues With The Devil”, Michael and Lucifer argue about this distinction. Heaven holds that Equity not Equality is given to those who ascend. Those who descend will be assured of Equality.

  7. Nice article and it helped clarify the jargon aspect of these two very similar terms for a job role I’m going for. However having worked in Equalities your definition is very different to that which I was always working with; for me equality is not about blind exact division, it was about each according to his needs. This is why the use of the word equity stumpted me in the job description. I understand, as a law student, that equity is the legal term, but I think essentially both these terms mean the same thing. Just as the words ‘harm or wrongdoing’ and ‘tort’ do; one is just he legal term for an already established concept. I think this is a more accurate explanation of the difference between the two. Thank you for the article. I will have to decide now whether to go into what I truly believe or what is accepted use of these terms in my interview; don’t want to come across pedantic, but on the other hand I’m right. An age old problem I guess.

  8. This is a terrible article! Why are people being so nice about it?

    – It doesn’t acknowledge that “equity” has two completely distinct meanings – one being “value”, the other being “the quality of being fair” – and jumps back and forth between the two throughout the article;

    – The analogies don’t help (and mostly hinder):

    – The first one (turkey) might hold true, but only if you agreed that “equity” (used here in the sense of “fairness” rather than “value”) would be served by giving the adults a larger portion than the children. This is possible, but you could argue something different just as easily;

    – The second analogy (feminism) doesn’t make sense. Men and women being different doesn’t preclude them from being treated exactly the same, in just the same way that the differences between any two men and any two women don’t preclude them from being treated the same. When people say they want “gender equality”, this is a completely reasonable use of the word “equality”. They could also ask for “gender equity” – in this example I see no difference between the two (if you were using the second meaning of “equity”) – although the fact that “equity” has two distinct meanings might make things a bit unclear;

    – The third analogy (cold war) isn’t any better. The suggestion that paying everyone the same amount irrespective of productivity is an example of “equality” does not hold. You could just as easily say that the capitalist model was an example of “equality” because it applied one rule equally to everyone – i.e. that income would be linked to productivity.

    The only bits of this that are possibly worth reading are the second and third sentences of the first paragraph. These touch on the point but are still don’t catch it squarely. The truth is that equality is the quality of being equal; equity is the quality of being fair (and also has a second, separate meaning). And we can ignore the bit about equity being to do with outcomes. You can have equality and equity of inputs, and you can have equality and equity of outcomes as well.

  9. Thank you for distinguishing the two words and give us very specific examples. I’m learning Social Stratification and found difficult to distinguish the two words. Though I still need to deepen my understanding of these two words, you give me a general idea. Thank you again!

  10. I was interested in this article because of my genuine concern that in demanding ‘equality’ we’re somehow missing the value of distinctiveness and indirectly promoting androgyny. Before I can accept ‘equality’ as a primary principle; I’d see it stripped of ambiguity. Discussing equality/equity is one way of going about tackling this issue. But what about equality/equanimity? Would a demand for ‘ubiquity of equanimity’ replace the ambiguity with clarity? (or does this route to simplicity, simply add too much complexity?)

  11. Thank you very much indeed. This has cleared my century-old confused concept of equality and equity. Very good examples are cited. I ll never mix up these words anymore and the whole credit will go to you. Impressive work by you. Once again thank u.

  12. Thank you for your description and thoughts around equity and equality, I agree with you for the most part, however there are a couple of points made, I take issue with. Firstly I agree with Richard that your analogy using feminism doesn’t make sense or ring true. People can be different and still deserve equal rights i.e. being treated equally with the same respect, same pay for same work and so on (women do not get the same respect as men and have not always received the same wage for the same work) . I believe that in some cases equality and equity will be the same thing. I think it is the outcome we need to focus on, especially when considering resources and their distribution. For example when considering distributing resources amongst a group where some may be disadvantaged due to having a disability of some kind, then distributing resources equally could mean that those with the disability end up being worse off than others. Whereas an equitable distribution of the resources, taking into consideration the disability of some in the group, would hopefully mean all would end up in an equal situation of having a fulfilled life. I believe this is what you are talking about in your definition and on this point I agree with you.
    However your statement about communism and why it didn’t work is, I believe, a major furphy. The Soviet Union and China did NOT practice communism in its purest form. Communism manifested in its purest form is ‘resources held in common by all people’, not resources being held by a state body and then so-called divied up by that state, as was with the case with the Soviet Union and China. Also you have it wrong as far as Capitalism is concerned, especially when you are speaking about equity. Capitalism and its partner in crime neo-liberalim assumes that we all start on a level playing field and thus assumes achievement by individuals comes about solely by their own efforts. However, in our world today we all start off with unequal amounts of economic, cultural and social capital along with built in privilege and oppression within our social systems. Which is why we have inequality in our world today.

  13. this has been good to me thank you so much for distinguishing the differences

  14. This is a perfect document about difference between Equity and Equality. Thanks for it.
    – Krishna

  15. Cat smith succintly sums up the most frequent misconceptions (or, one might saying, *intended* conceptions per the prevalent propaganda and discourse in the U.S. and Europe). Indeed, practically, it is in issues of economy and social justice that the equity/equality difference cries out for clarification. It’s rather unfortunate that analyzing the differences between usage of “rquity” and “equality” turns into a misinformed indictment of equality (as equated to the USSR as equated with “communism” as a concept) and celebration of equity (as equated with fairness of income as equated to capitalism and the USA). It’s no secret that in the light of day, the USSR was a resounding failure and a human tragedy…but the USSR does not reflect the ideas and ideals and practices of communism in anyone’s eyes but an uninformed American ideologue. While I am not mecessarily speaking in favor of communism, I am certainly advocating an *accurate* understanding of what communism is. The USSR is more accurately tied to a totalitarianism that many refer to as Stalinism, or, especially in its later years, “state capitalism”. Further, the same “light of day” that exposed the USSR as a dictatorial fraud to even the idealistic idolizing leftist radicals of the ’60s, if that light is shined on the equitable oasis of American capitalism, it exposes no shortage of inequities, poorly compensated productivity increases of low level workers and overcompensation of managers and owners with sometimes tenuous connections to increased productivity, or even decreased productvity.

    Given the inescapable entry of economy and social justice into a discussion of equality-equity, and then, the just as inevitable devolution of a discussion about economy and social justice into a discussion of communism and capitalism…It surely would befit the discussion to be honest and specific about the benefits and detriments of both capitalism and communism, as ideals and in practice. Equality and equity are not simple concepts, and politics and economy are not simple issues. But an honest appraisal of politics, economy, and social justice (even in a simplified form! Not everybody, myself included, is an academic!), such an honest appraisal can help produces examples of not only the differences between equality and equity, but also the complicated ways in which they compliment each other, masquerade as each other, or even permit or prevent each other!

  16. This is idiotic:

    “Equity represents fairness, or what may be termed as the equality of outcomes.”

    Fairness, and thence equity, is not defined by equality of outcomes, but by equality of CONDITIONS. The meaning of the terms here are COMPLETELY reversed. And the turkey example is BEYOND idiotic! Equity and equality have NOTHING to do with needs. Keeping the turkey constant, equity would mean that, if the turkey is the prize in a community event, all attendants are given the same opportunity of COMPETING for it.

  17. “Now, if women demand they should be treated in the same way as men, that would not be possible – equality would not be possible – because women and men are different, and cannot be treated in exactly the same way.”

    There is false equivalence going on here… ironic, I know….

    “same” is NOT the same as (or equal to, in this context) “equal”.

    “Same” means that all agreed upon values are equal.

    “Equal” means either (a) that the net of all the considered values balance, despite unbalance amidst individual values; or (b) that the value(s) in question are balanced.

    Take an apple and an orange. You can make the claim that the apple and orange are equal. Equal how? Could be market value. Could be nutritional value. Could be equal in volume or weight. But you know what they will never be? The same… unless you specify the value, such as “the apple and the orange have the same volume”

    To make the claim that “women should be treated as equals with men” is NOT the same as saying “women should be treated the same as men”. We are making a faith-based statement that if all possible values were considered, women have just as much value as men.

  18. Here’s an example that I am sure will shed some light on the confusion regarding equity vs. equality. These terms apply especially dealing with minority communities. An example: my county has over 10 safe house shelters for victims of violent crimes including domestic violence. There are an abundant of crisis counselors as well. These services are absolutely useless and can even be considered dangerous for the deaf community. They need shelters where there are communication devices and people/counselors who can communicate with them. This is called according to the ADA, effective communication aka equity. If the hearing community were to provide equal access, the deaf would not have their needs met. Again, what they must have to survive is equity. Equity is all about “the one size does not fit all” rule, equality is not. One out of every four deaf people read or write, so again, it’s imperative the hearing provide access to me the deaf’s needs. The deaf are not interested in equality as they are in equity. Equity is a “life saver” as it is for most minority groups. I hope this helps.

    I did my masters of gender equity so if any of you need more info, free to contact me at w.boyd@sbcglobal.net

    Here’s an organization that may give you more info is needed:IANGEL – International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law, is an international network of lawyers who believe in gender equality and justice for all people.

    Patricia Boyd, M.Ed., MAOD
    Open Doors Sonoma

  19. Thanks for thinking of this. It has really made things clear to me.

  20. Equality and equity has been well explained in turkey families. Good work. It Aided me in research. Though as many have mentioned that issues of gender is not soo clear but its somehow true.

  21. Equality: Every man can ask a woman out, but only a man she finds interesting and attractive will get a date.
    Equity: Every man gets a date.

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