Part 1: Key Social Equity Concepts and Background

Social Equity Concepts

For the purpose of this guide, social equity is defined as the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically.33 Equitable processes call for acknowledging that individuals or groups may have unequal starting points and require different levels of support based on their specific needs to achieve fairness in outcomes.8 Equitable and just processes need to be applied in pursuing equality, which is the state of all groups being equal in rights, status, and advantages.

“Equality” in processes would mean giving the same support to all individuals, overlooking their specific needs; “Equity” in processes would mean providing different support to differenti individuals based on their needs to reach a fair outcome. Image: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This guide focuses on various aspects of social inequity, including but not limited to those stemming from genderGender: The social attributes and opportunities associated with expressing as male, female, or non-binary and the relationships between and among them, in conjunction with other characteristics such as age, race, class, and/or other expressions of identity. These attributes, opportunities, and relationships are socially constructed, and can change over context and time. (adapted from UN Women) Depending on the context, information on “sex” may be used to collect information on gender outcomes. For instance, “sex-disaggregated data” analyzed with other demographic variables and socioeconomic indicators may identify gender gaps and patterns of social disparities., classClass: Social groups’ standard of living as defined by their household income, wealth, and consumption in terms of nutrition, education, and health services, language proficiency etc. (adapted from ILO). Sub-categories may include upper/elite class, middle class, and working class. People’s socioeconomic status is a reflection of what they can or can’t do based on their class., casteCaste: A complex form of stratified social hierarchy, often referring to a system of social stratification in Hindu India (Adapted from the Oxford Dictionary of Sociology)., ethnicity/race/indigeneity, age, educational status, geographic location, migrant status, disability, or religion. We give special attention to gender inequity, given the pervasive nature of the issue across sectors and locations and within socioeconomic groups, and its tendency to be sidelined or ignored in the broader conversation on social equity.

Social equity issues vary depending on the social, economic, and political contexts of cities, and approaches to address these issues should be adapted by decision makers accordingly.