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07/19/2012

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Brendan Saloner

I've been hooked on what you and Paul are writing on this topic.

You say: "So it is possible that among the most effective ways to increase equality of opportunity is to reduce inequality of outcomes among young families."

Most people would be glad for social policies to promote both equality of opportunity and to decrease inequality of outcomes. The tricky cases, which I think Paul alluded to, are those where the two goals work in opposite directions. Plenty of thought experiments come to mind, what if the best way to reduce low birthweight was to give more money to low-income fathers? (imagine that doing so got more fathers to invest time in their children, but also decreased the bargaining power of mothers, increasing gender inequality), or if giving vouchers to wealthier children to get them to attend head start increased the cognitive outcomes of low-income children? Or if the EITC was only given to parents whom the government determined were "diamonds in the rough," potential high achievers that were caught in poverty? (since their children would surge ahead with a bit more money and raise the prospects of other poor children with less talented parents)

There is something a bit unpleasant about each of these thought experiments, but it is not obvious to me that increasing current inequality of outcomes is ruled out in favor of promoting future equality of opportunity in any of these cases. What do you think?

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