Intra-country inequality, part of the wider concern with inequality between countries or global regions, can be understood in three broad and interlinking ways:
- Economic inequality, which is what much of the existing conceptualisation of inequality discusses and is indeed the origin of international development concerns with inequality of income, consumption and distribution of assets;
- Political inequality, which refers to political voice, participation and representation; and
- Social inequality which refers more broadly to how people are positioned vis- à-vis public goods such as employment, education, and healthcare.
All three types of equality are concerned with equal distribution, be it economic, political or social. However a number of key questions arise in elucidating what is distributed, why, and to whom. The questions which arise in this review include:
- Equal distribution of opportunity and/or access (including capabilities) vs. equal distribution of outcomes (known as ‘equity’)
- Distribution based on need vs. distribution based on merit
- The pursuit of equality as an intrinsic ‘good’ vs. the pursuit of equality as instrumentally beneficial
- Inequality as structural vs. inequality as the result of human agency
In asking what needs to be distributed there is a need to define what can be regarded as a distributable resource, and whether differing human needs for resources should be reflected in outcomes.