A Potential Model of Intersectional Privilege

I’ve been thinking of a not-wordy (or less wordy) way to describe privilege for a while. This is my first draft as an equation that defines the assumptions I have and the relationships that exist between individual identity characteristics and the opportunities (or lack of opportunities that are available to you.

Aubrey Blanche, The Mathpath
2 min readApr 22, 2017

First, bear with me that Medium doesn’t do the best with mathematical notation. I believe that the concept of privilege can be described by the model:

y = βx + ε

I’m calling that Equation 1 (E1), Where:

  • y is a set of personal and professional opportunities available to you
  • x is the amount of “hard work” you put in
  • β is the coefficient that describes the multiplier you have on your hard work (privilege)
  • ε is the random variation (chance/luck) you experience that leads to your opportunity set

Defining β

But how do we define β?

β can be described by a regression model with a theoretically infinite number of terms:

β = (Σαz) + ε

I’m calling that Equation 2 (E2). The variables are as follows:

  • α is the weight of the impact of a particular identity characteristic on your outcomes (e.g., the weighted effect of your racial identity on your opportunity set)
  • z is the impact of your identity on your opportunity set, represented as a relative value to the “highest” or “most” valuable identity in a given category (e.g., White = 1, Black = <1)

In this case, I think it can be simplified, because it’s a reasonable assumption that the ε in this equation can be subsumed into the ε in E1. That means we’re working with:

β = (Σαz)

That makes our total equation (E3):

y = (Σαz)x + ε

One hypothesis

It’s possible that the combination of your gender, race, and socioeconomic status can explain the *majority* of your opportunity set in life.

In math-y terms, I think that you can get a pretty high value of R² for E3 using just gender, race, and SES. Thus, the equation that I propose looks like this:

y = βg + βr + βses +ε

From my preliminary thought experiments, I think that this equation can actually help ground discussions of privilege in formal logic, which can help avoid derailments, and ensure that discussion follows a purely logical path.

In the future, I’m thinking of using this to explain the most common questions I get for a more math- or engineering-focused audience.

Remember, this is still an intellectual exercise. Please do offer refinement or refutation, but be kind!



Aubrey Blanche, The Mathpath

Equitable Design & Impact @CultureAmp. Advisor, investor. Mathpath = (Math Nerd + Empath). Queer dog mom, Latina. Your contribution matters. She/her.