Core Values: Equal opportunities? Or, outcomes? makes everyone’s “short list” of American values. But what does equality mean? It can mean equal opportunities, equality of outcomes, equality before the law, gender equality, racial equality, and more.

Well over 90% of Americans agree that everyone should have equal opportunities. This figure doesn’t waver over the four national surveys I conducted in 2009 and 2010. This conception of equality firmly fits our definition of a core value: strongly held, widely held, stable over time, and shared across demographic and political lines. For example, liberals and conservatives alike firmly hold the value of equality of opportunities.

The same can’t be said for equality of outcomes. Many Americans support some version of this, but it’s far from a core value. Depending on how you describe the idea, equality of outcomes can seem almost un-American.

But there is a very strong concern about outcomes among millions of Americans. More than 70% of Americans believe the gap between rich and poor is too large. How big is that gap? It’s so large right now that, looking at this factor alone, an outside observer would conclude that America is a developing nation. Economic inequality is at an all-time high in America. Wages have been stable or declining, while productivity has gone up. Care to read more? Here’s an earlier story on Americans’ attitudes toward economic fairness. And, here’s a story about the wealth gap as it relates to hunger.

Today, please Comment below on this:

We know you support equality, but equality of what?

Opportunities? Outcomes, too?

(Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email