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Equality of outcome, equality of condition, or Equality of results is a form of social justice rhetoric which seeks to reduce or eliminate incidental inequalities in material condition between individuals or households in a society. This usually means equalizing income and/or total wealth to a certain degree by, for example, granting a greater amount of income and/or total wealth to poorer individuals or households at the expense of relatively wealthy individuals or households.

Equality of outcome can be distinguished from the concept of equality of opportunity. Government policies that seek to produce an equality of outcome for all citizens in various areas of life are controversial. As individuals have differing skills and talents, a society cannot easily be made 'equal'. Policies that seek an equality of outcome often require a deviation from the strict application of concepts such as meritocracy, and legal notions of equality before the law for all citizens. 'Equality seeking' policies may also have a redistributive focus.

Rationale Outcomes can usually be measured with a great degree of precision, opportunities cannot. That is why many proponents of equal opportunity use measures of equality of outcome to judge success. To the extent that incidental inequalities can be passed from one generation to another through substantial gifts and wealth inheritance, some claim that equality of opportunity for children cannot be achieved without greater equality of outcome for parents. Moreover, access and opportunity to various social institutions is partially dependent on equality of outcome. Proponents argue that rigging equality of outcome can be a force preventing co-optation of non-economic institutions important to social control and policy formation, such as the legal system, media or the electoral process, by individuals and coalitions of wealthy people.

A progressive taxation system is likely to increase equality of outcome, and so is a welfare state[citation needed] . These, however, reduce social inequality but fail to eliminate it entirely. A total elimination of social inequality is the goal of most forms of socialism[citation needed]. Communism and Socialism are two such systems which advocate an equality of outcome.

Greater equality of outcome is likely to reduce relative poverty, purportedly leading to a more cohesive society. However, if taken to an extreme it may lead to greater absolute poverty if it negatively affects a country's GDP by damaging workers' sense of work ethic by destroying incentives to work harder. Critics of equality of outcome believe that it is more important to raise the standard of living of the poorest in absolute terms[citation needed]. Some critics additionally disagree with the concept of equality of outcome on philosophical grounds[citation needed] .

A related argument is often encountered in education and more specifically in the debates on the grammar school in the United Kingdom and in the debates on gifted education in various countries. According to that argument, people by nature have differing levels of ability and initiative which lead some to achieve better outcomes than others. Therefore, it is considered impossible to ensure equality of outcome without imposing inequality of opportunity.

John Rawls, in his A Theory of Justice (1971), developed a "second principle of justice" that economic and social inequalities can only be justified if they benefit the most disadvantaged members of society. Furthermore, Rawls claims that all economically and socially privileged positions must be open to all people equally. Rawls argues that the inequality between a doctor's salary and a grocery clerk's is only acceptable if this is the only way to encourage the training of sufficient numbers of doctors, preventing an unacceptable decline in the availability of medical care (which would therefore disadvantage everyone).

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