Ethical dimensions of quantification

Wendy Espeland, Vincent Yung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The ethical dimensions of quantification are seldom analysed. We examine three ethical features that are characteristic of quantification – its capacity to express or mediate power, focus attention, and shape opportunity structures. We do so in the context of three recent examples of new types of quantification : university rankings, the racial classification of Asians in the US, and facial recognition algorithms. Our examples highlight the importance of understanding the varied and complex ways that quantification creates and organizes social relations, and the effect of this on multiple forms of inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-260
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Science Information
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • algorithms
  • census
  • ethics
  • quantification
  • rankigs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Library and Information Sciences


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