The University Research Priority Program “Equality of Opportunity” studies economic and social changes that lead to inequality in society, the consequences of such inequalities, and public policies that foster greater equality of opportunity.
The rise in economic and social inequality has become an increasingly dominant topic of discussion in both the public and academic spheres. A notion of “equality of opportunity” where all members of society have an equal potential for economic and societal success regardless of their individual demographics and backgrounds is central to a well functioning society. Thus, a high level of inequality is perceived as a challenge in societies that strive for democratic and meritocratic ideals. While questions of equality and inequality are at the heart of academic discourses in many disciplines of the social sciences and humanities, there is little overlap between these discourses. Different disciplines diverge even on basic foundations such as the the definition of terms like ‘equality’ and ‘inequality’.
The University Research Priority Program (URPP) “Equality of Opportunity” connects researchers from three faculties of the University of Zurich who represent the five academic disciplines of economics, law, political science, history, and philosophy. We leverage our combined academic expertise to conduct research in three interdisciplinary research modules that study distinct dimensions of equality and inequality: Module “Economic Change” analyzes how changes in the structure of the economy, such as the consequences of ongoing automation, change the types and the distribution of wealth and income in society. Module “Social Change” asks how social norms contribute to a changing perception of inequality, and how norms and perceptions translate into political demands. Module “Public Policy” studies how governments can foster greater equality of opportunity through a legal framework that provides normative foundations of equality in society, and through concrete tax and education policies that build on it.