Excuse my sorry English
April 8, 2017 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Hi everybody, non-native English speaker here trying to find out if there is a word for the opposite of the term 'equalizer'. Thanks for thinking with me!

While studying the subject of pre-K, classroom-based preschool programs for children at or below the age of five (preschool or reception years preceding elementary school) and their effectiveness from a social science perspective, I wonder: if education can be viewed as an equalizer for the socio-economic gap, then what would the term be for the opposite in (scientific) English? Something/a factor that creates differences (e.g. the neighborhood of the family). Maybe 'differentiator'? I can't find it in a quick search here and there, nor in the papers on the subject. If there isn't a word for it, something (semantically creative) that comes near in terms of connotation or a layman's term would also be great. Thanks!
posted by Litehouse to Science & Nature (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by Rhaomi at 2:45 PM on April 8 [15 favorites]

posted by Thorzdad at 2:45 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]

a factor that creates inequality?
posted by nickggully at 2:46 PM on April 8

"Difference-maker"? A bit casual but should be a familiar term to most native speakers.
posted by letourneau at 2:48 PM on April 8

I don't think there is a standard word that means that in the way equalizer does. You'd have to use a word in a different way, such as those suggested above.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:55 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]

Potentiator, potentiate. A lack of education will potentiate socio-economic inequality.
posted by the Real Dan at 2:57 PM on April 8

Discrimination; discriminatory.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:00 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]

posted by Bruce H. at 3:03 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]

I was gonna say "disruptor" too.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:04 PM on April 8

I'd also say it's not super common to use "equalizer" or one of these as one word. You'd say more like an "aggravating factor", or something like that.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:11 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]

"Differentiator" might work. "Discriminator" or "segregator" might work too, and for any of these you'll want to make clear to the reader what you have in mind, since it'll be a slightly unusual sense. I agree that this is something most naturally conveyed as a phrase rather than a single word. Would a phrase like "amplifier of inequality" etc work for your purposes?
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:12 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]

Potentiate is probably the most technically correct, but it's also pretty rare outside of the biological/medical/pharmacological domain (e.g. one drug potentiates the effects of another), so it's highly likely to confuse people not familiar with that specific domain.

Personally, I would probably either use differentiator, even though it's usually used to mean something that distinguishes the characteristics between two things, rather than causing two things to be different, or just come up with a way to rephrase that allows me to explain more precisely what I mean. (On preview, LobsterMitten's "amplifier of inequality" is the type of phrase I'm thinking of).
posted by firechicago at 3:15 PM on April 8

In the hard sciences "polarizer" might be the opposite of "equalizer", but would not convey the same meaning in a socio-economic context. "To polarize" usually refers to an issue or topic that provokes a dichotomy of strong opinions, in that context.
posted by XMLicious at 3:18 PM on April 8

As an educator, I would call these factors, as you did... a risk factor would be one that predicts poor performance.
posted by Huck500 at 3:39 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]

If education can be viewed as an equalizer for the socio-economic gap then privilege, nepotism and institutional racism can [heighten | exaggerate | expand] the socio-economic gap.
posted by willnot at 3:41 PM on April 8

I've heard these called "predictors." Like, "The greatest predictor of school success is parental income, but access to preschool can eliminate the difference between rich children and their poorer peers."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:44 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]

posted by coevals at 3:47 PM on April 8

Reify is often used in this context.
posted by effluvia at 4:00 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]

posted by calgirl at 4:57 PM on April 8

posted by dustkee at 4:58 PM on April 8

posted by donut_princess at 5:07 PM on April 8

I have seen the word "inhibitor" used for this in academic papers in the field of education.
posted by b33j at 5:14 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]

posted by DoubleLune at 5:17 PM on April 8

Make inequitable. Or creates inequities.
posted by alusru at 5:43 PM on April 8

posted by JoeZydeco at 6:01 PM on April 8

You probably know this, but: In the US, we often say that some fortunate students are privileged, or they have advantages; and other, less fortunate, students are disadvantaged or are 'at a disadvantage'.
posted by amtho at 7:12 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]

Advantage. An equalizer makes things equal, an advantage makes them unequal.
posted by emd3737 at 12:13 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]

I would probably choose to say education narrows, rather than equalizes, the socio economic gap. Some other factor might widen that gap. You could say education is a socio-economic equalizer, or some other factor creates a socio-economic divide, but "equalizing a gap" is sort of mixing the metaphor.
posted by gennessee at 2:11 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]

Differentiator is fine, even my auto-correct recognizes it. However, like equalizer you have to use the -ation form when actually describing degrees of effect.
posted by rhizome at 7:10 PM on April 9

Thank you so much, everybody! All your reactions helped me to think about the subject. I chose some as the best answers, and "stratifier" I found shortly after in the literature I was looking at.
posted by Litehouse at 1:05 PM on June 3

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