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Is the 'American Dream' a thing of the Past?

Is the 'American Dream' a thing of the Past?

According to a Washington Post/Fusion survey, young white Americans are losing faith in the ‘American Dream.’ The poll, which involved 935 adults between the ages of 18 and 35, replicated questions used in a similar poll conducted in 1986. And while the job outlook for 20-somethings is about the same as it was in 1986, pessimism regarding the future is much higher. 

Economical growth is only slightly slower than it was in 1986, so why the widespread pessimism? It may have something to do with the Great Recession and the knowledge that wages have remained stagnant for over a decade. The survey was centered around the following questions:  

• What does the American Dream mean to you?

• Does the American Dream exist?

• If so, how hard is it to attain the American Dream?

Pessimism towards the future was most prevalent in young, white workers without a college degree. Since the original survey back in 1986, the number of young Americans who considered the American Dream “not really alive” increased from 12% to 29%. Compared to the results of the original survey, negative outlook among African-Americans has not changed.  

Of those who considered the American Dream still alive, whites were more likely to answer that the dream is now harder to achieve than it was for Gen Xers (60% of white college grads and 70% of whites without a degree agreed). When asked the same question, 53% of non-white respondents said the dream is now harder to achieve. This split is interesting, considering the fact that income trends have been virtually the same for whites and non-whites since 1987. 

When asked to describe the American Dream, Gen Xers were likely to mention being rich, owning a home, and having freedom of choice. The top answer for Millennials, on the other hand, was starting a business. 

The Washington Post/ Fusion poll was conducted via phone interviews between November 4th and 18th, 2015. 


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