A dedication ceremony of the Washington Gladden Social Justice Park in Columbus, Ohio, USA. A park dedicated to social justice.
A dedication ceremony of the Washington Gladden Social Justice Park in Columbus, Ohio, USA, A park dedicated to social justice.
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Social equity is concerned with justice and fairness of social policy. Since the 1960s, the concept of social equity has been used in a variety of institutional contexts, including education and public administration.

Equity within a society is different from social equality because it takes into account the individual differences that people may have when seeking an equal outcome. Equity describes equal outcomes for groups, also called substantive equality.[1] For example, person A may have no difficulty walking, person B may be able to walk but with some difficulty, whilst person C may be unable to walk at all. Equality would be providing each of those three people with the same opportunities or aids. Per our example, if persons A, B, and C receive a wheelchair, this is a form of equality. Equity, on the other hand, would look different from equality because it would instead cater to each individual's differing needs. For the same example, person A may not receive any aids, person B may receive a walking stick, whilst person C may receive an electric wheelchair.


Definitions of social equity can vary but all focus on the ideals of justice and fairness. Equity should involve the role of public administrators, who are responsible for ensuring that social services are delivered equitably. This implies taking into account historical and current inequalities among groups. Fairness is dependent on this social and historical context.[2]

In public administration

Attention to social equity in the field of public administration in the United States arose during the 1960s, amid growing national awareness of civil rights and racial inequality.[3]

The National Academy of Public Administration defines social equity as “The fair, just and equitable management of all institutions serving the public directly or by contract; the fair, just and equitable distribution of public services and implementation of public policy; and the commitment to promote fairness, justice, and equity in the formation of public policy.”[4]

In 1968, H. George Frederickson articulated "a theory of social equity" and put it forward as the 'third pillar' of public administration.[5] Frederickson was concerned that those in public administration were making the mistake of assuming that citizen A is the same as citizen B; ignoring social and economic conditions. His goal: for social equity to take on the same "status as economy and efficiency as values or principles to which public administration should adhere."[5]

Sex, gender and sexuality

Recent administration from former U.S. President Barack Obama has shed light on the subject of social equity for members of the LGBT community. The Obama administration appointed more than 170 openly LGBT professionals to work full-time within the executive branch and directed the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct “the first ever national study to determine the level of discrimination experienced by LGBTs in housing.”[6] Other LGBT advocacy interest groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign, have also worked hard to gain social equity in marriage and to receive all the benefits that come with marriage. Other references include: Mitchell, Danielle. "Reading Between The Aisles: Same-Sex Marriage As A Conflicted Symbol Of Social Equity." Topic: The Washington & Jefferson College Review 55.(2007): 89–100. Humanities Source. Web.


Within the realm of public administration, racial equality is an important factor. It deals with the idea of “biological equality” of all human races and “social equality for people of different races”. According to Jeffrey B. Ferguson his article “Freedom, Equality, Race”, the people of the United States believe that racial equality will prevail.[7]


Social equity regarding religion has legal protections in some jurisdictions. In the US, individuals, regardless of religious affiliation or practice are afforded. According to 42 U.S.C. sect. 2000e(j) "Religion is defined as all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to responsibly accommodate to an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice without unique hardship to the conduct of the employer's business."[8] This law was enacted to protect employees who are employed by bosses of another religion and allow them to observe their particular religious practices and celebrations.

See also


  1. ^ Alfonseca, Kiara (10 February 2023). "DEI: What does it mean and what is its purpose?". ABC News. Retrieved 25 March 2023.
  2. ^ Gooden, Susan T. (2015). Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government. Routledge. pp. 13–18. ISBN 978-1-31-746145-6.
  3. ^ See also Riccucci, N.M. 2021. Managing Diversity in Public Sector Workforces. New York: Routledge.
  4. ^ National Academy of Public Administration Archived 2009-05-06 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Frederickson, H. George (March 1990). "Public Administration and Social Equity" (PDF). Public Administration Review. 50 (2): 228–237. doi:10.2307/976870. ISSN 1540-6210. JSTOR 976870. Archived from the original on 12 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-19. In 1968 a theory of social equity was developed and put forward as the "third pillar" for public administration, with the same status as economy and efficiency as values or principles to which public administration should adhere
  6. ^ Wesley, Joan Marshall, Ercilla Dometz Hendrix, and Jasmine N. Williams. "Moving Forward: Advancing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender Rights Under The Obama Administration Through Progressive Politics." Race, Gender & Class 18.3/4 (2011): 150-168. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web.
  7. ^ See also Riccucci, Norma M. (2021-05-19), "Diversity Management and Women in Public Sector Workforces", Managing Diversity in Public Sector Workforces, Routledge, pp. 101–135, doi:10.4324/9781003176534-6, ISBN 978-1-003-17653-4, retrieved 2023-01-05
  8. ^ Malone, Michael D., Sandra J. Hartman, and Dinah Payne. "Religion In The Workplace: Disparate Treatment." Labor Law Journal 49.6 (1998): 1099-1105. Legal Source. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

Further reading