Equity vs. Equality: The Difference Between Two Similar Words

Equity and Equality sound alike, have a similar spelling, and many people use them as synonyms. So, what is the difference? To put it simply, equality is making things equal, and equity is making things fair. You may be thinking, “Which one is the goal and why it is important?” Great questions! Let’s dig into equity vs. equality to find out.      

Equity and Equality Are Not The Same     

Equality means everyone is given the same resources or opportunities. However, equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and provides the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.     

The key is the last part of the above sentence, giving individuals an opportunity at an equal outcome. Here, at United Way of Whitewater Valley, we use a framework to help reduce inequities. To do this in our communities, we work with our program partners to take a two-step approach. First, identify the individual needs of specific populations. Second, we make changes to improve their conditions to give them that opportunity for equal outcomes. For many people, this means receiving access to resources they lack because of their age, ability, race, ethnicity, gender, or income. 

Seeing is Understanding 

It can be tough to see how this happens in a community. So, we created a great graphic to help explain equity vs. equality.  The picture above visually represents the differences between equity and equality.   

On the equality side of the graphic, everyone receives a box to see over the fence. In a community, this looks like every person receiving the same resources.  However, though they all received a box (equal access to a box), look closely, can they all see the game? No. So, what’s the result?  Inequity. Yes, they were all given the same resource (a box), but it didn’t meet their individual needs.   

 Now, look on the equity side of the graphic; everyone pictured received the resources they needed based on their circumstances. The little girl received two boxes to stand on, and the differently-abled man received a ramp.   

Equity closes the gap in outcomes. In this example, the result was the opportunity to watch the ball game by looking over the fence. The gap could be many different things in life, like an opportunity gap, income gap, or resource gap. There are organizations all over the United States working to reduce inequities; it is also happening right here in our home counties.     

More Examples of Equity In Your Backyard 

Now that we have a better understanding of equality vs. equity let’s look at some examples.    

Wayne and Union Counties have some beautiful parks. However, do the playgrounds give equitable access to all children? In some cases, no or at least until a few years ago. In 2017, Earlham College partnered with Richmond Parks Department to create “Playground With Purpose”. Together, they created a purpose-built playground to give access to children with sensory learning disorders and other physical disabilities. This park is an excellent example of improving equitable resources to provide all children with a shot at an equal outcome.  

Our global framework documents show the impact of equity in Wayne and Union counties. Because of our agency partners:   

  • 4,417 people were able to access healthcare support.   
  • 666 families gained access to services to improve their financial stability.   
  • 6,618 youth participated in out-of-school programs, which will enhance study habits and engagement in school.   
  • 541 children were enrolled in high-quality early childhood programs.    

Equity in Wayne and Union Counties  

First, we are committed to equity. Every resident of Wayne and Union counties deserves the resources they need to succeed.     

Second, our partner agencies work daily to reduce inequities in Wayne and Union counties. This work includes programs in one of our four focus areas childhood success, youth success, economic mobility and access to health. If you want to learn more about the nonprofits we support or our focus areas, visit our blog.      

Now we leave you with a question, how are you impacting or advocating for equity in your community?   

If you are passionate about equity in Wayne and Union counties and want to get involved, you can donatevolunteer or learn more about United Way of Whitewater Valley.