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Gauging Social Justice: A Survey of Indices for Public Management

PAQ, Vol. 38 No. 4, (2014)

Social policy development is a fundamental topic in public management, and social policies commonly seek to restore or establish equity among groups of citizens within a plural state. One casualty of the rise of New Public Management has been the importance of social equity, which has assumed subordinate status compared to efficiency and effectiveness. New Public Management has also reified that which can be captured quantitatively, and social equity resists measurement. Equity measures can guide policy makers’ efforts in agenda setting to identify areas of greater need, which is particularly important given scarce financial resources. We use the definition of equity put forth by Rawls and applied by Frederickson, and focus on equitable distribution of public goods and services. We then examine strengths and weaknesses of five equity measures. Consistent with the best contributions to public management, these five measures were developed in related disciplines and imported to public management. What is more, although these measures presuppose the use of large data sets, they have been employed to great effect in internationally- comparative research, for many of them allow researchers to use aggregated data such as country-level data, which is at times the only level of detail available. Finally, the measures we review need not rely on race and ethnicity as proxies for equity, which may be more appropriate in countries where economic disparities do not neatly coincide with demographic characteristics.

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