Substance precedes methodology: on cost-benefit analysis and equity
Number of pages
SourceTransportation, 38, 6, (2011), pp. 959-974
17 september 2011
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectShaping and Changing of Places and Spaces
While distributive aspects have been a topic of discussion in relation to cost–benefit analysis (CBA), little systematic thought has been given in the CBA literature to the focus of such an equity analysis in evaluating transport projects. The goal of the paper is to provide an overview of the various directions an equity analysis, carried out within the context of a social cost–benefit analysis, could take. The paper starts from the widely-shared definition of distributive justice: the morally proper distribution of goods and bads over members of society. Following this definition, carrying out an equity analysis requires that decisions are made about: (1) the benefits and costs that are distributed through a transport project; (2) the members of society between whom benefits and costs are distributed; and (3) the distributive principle that determines whether a particular distribution is fair. Much of the discussions about cost–benefit analysis and equity do not address these questions in any systematic way. The paper aims to provide a framework. Three sets of benefits and costs are identified as a possible focus of an equity analysis: (1) net benefits; (2) mobility-enhancing benefits; and (3) individual benefits and costs. For each set, a discussion follows regarding the way in which members of societies could be divided into meaningful groups, as well as the possible yardstick for judging whether a certain distribution is fair. While the paper acknowledges that the choice between the three sets is ultimately a political decision, it ends with a set of arguments that suggest that the equity analysis of transport projects should focus first and foremost on the mobility-enhancing benefits generated by such projects.
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