ELI5, ‘Ceteris paribus’ or ‘all things being equal’, what does that ACTUALLY mean?


It’s a turn of phrase but I don’t actually understand what all things being equal means.

In: 16

It means that whatever discussion is being held atm the nondisclosed factors are considered unchanging for the sake of portraing any given relation between analysed variables.

You’re trying to compare two things. There’s lots of ways those two things could be different but you’re only interested in talking about one particular way they might be different. So for purposes of the discussion you assume that the two things are identical in all of the other ways they might be different except for the specific way you’re interested in discussing.

There’s really an implied “other” in there: “all *other* things being equal, X is true.”

“All things being equal, I prefer crunchier apples.” There are lots of things that impact your enjoyment of an apple, but given two apples that are identical except for their crunchiness, you would prefer the one that is crunchier.

> “Hey, would you rather go out for pizza or Chinese?”

> “Well, all other things equal, I’d prefer Chinese.”

What this means is that if there are no other factors considered: distance to the restaurant, price, crowdedness, what other people want to eat, etc etc etc — if all those other factors were held equal — the second speaker would like Chinese food.

It means that you understand that there may be complicating factors to the answer but that you are answering without that element. All things being equal maybe you’d rather date a tall girl than a short girl. But like, you still mean that if the tall girl was hitler you’d not want that. But if it was two people who had basically the same properties other than that one you’d go for tall.

You assume that all but the variable being discussed are comparable.

E.g. If I say “all else being equal, I prefer blondes” that implies the women are of similar attractiveness.