Is the American dream Dead?

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The American dream is a concept that is based on the pursuit of happiness, freedom and opportunities throughout the streets but it is above all, a matter of ambition. It is important for the country to take the American dream seriously, especially our generation because it provides an opportunity to achieve the goals one has set for himself. The American dream is achievable if an individual work hard at it, be persistent and has some ability. A few decades ago, it was much easier to attain the American dream compared to today. The economy was much better than it is today. Currently, the United States is in greater debt and people are also in debt than they were fifty years ago.  Many open-minded activists and economists say that the American dream has successfully died as the result of the economic adversity and Great depression that American citizens have encountered. Statistics show a terrifying fact that millions and millions of dollars were lost in the market stock (Chetty 398). As a result of these losses, there has been high unemployment in the past few years and apparently dismal possibilities for prosperity in the United States. Therefore, this paper will seek to respond to the main question: Is the American dream dead?

Is the American Dream Dead?

James Truslow Adams created the term “American Dream,” after the Great Recession, arguing that the American dream is the ambition of the land that should provide a better, richer or mellifluous life to every person (Adams 45). Adams added that the American dream is meant to give every person an opportunity in accordance with his potential and ambitions, irrespective of his or her conditions of birth or social class. Many liberal activists and economists in the United States believe that the American dream is dead in relation to the economic hardship and Great depression that has affected many Americans.  But as this paper restates the American dream, today, as the capacity to save for the future to achieve the stability of life, it will present that the American dream is still alive and more important than ever. In fact, our country needs to take the American dream more seriously to achieve true prosperity, climb out of inequality and overcome the Great Depression.

            According to the study done by Johnson shows that despite the hostility of Great depression, 81% of the American population still believe it is feasible to begin working hard from the lowest level and become wealthy (69). In the same study, an interview was carried out asking Americans what they think achieving the American dream is. Most of the people interviewed said that attaining the American dream is having a steady job, a safe place to live and having a financial security for the future.  Others claimed that owning a car or home or buying other expensive goods is being successful. This implied a slight change of people’s perception about the American dream in the past to a more practical one today. Currently, the American dream is embroidered with many different versions from its former self. In the past, owning luxurious items such as homes, cars and accumulating more material possessions used to be the actual indication of success in our society. Moving from filth poverty to wealthy or turning out to be a person that no one could ever imagine was perceived as living the American dream (Goodman 32). But today, most of the Americans do not strive to move from rags to riches, instead, they are determined to attain a stable, middle-class lifestyle. The main focus of this middle-class lifestyle is to secure a job and save money for the future. Today, most people in the United States are renting their homes instead of buying.

A recent survey shows that there is a reduction in home ownership from 73% in 2008 to nearly 64.5% in 2017 and an upsurge in renting houses of 1.5 million (Goodman 34). The aim of homeownership has been almost the same with that of the American dream for years. The central government in the United States has created several programs that support homeownership to encourage American to pursue the American dream.  The programs created by the federal government also include mortgage loan insurance offered through Federal Housing Administration (FDA), Federal National Mortgage Association and government-sponsored initiatives such as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Organization. The Federation National Mortgage Association is meant to augment the home mortgage interest deduction and money available for lending. The deduction of home mortgage interest was integrated with other deductions when Congress launched again the federal income tax in 1915 (Goodman 34). The concession was to make American people pay federal income tax. The way these deductions work is that a homeowner can deduct his or her payments of mortgage interest from his adjusted gross income if he meets certain prerequisites. Over time, this has become the most infamous deduction for many citizens. A study completed in 2014 shows that most American citizens are examining their spending habits more intensively (Chetty 399). As a result of the Great Depression, almost 66.5% of Americans have irrevocably changed their expending habits and 25 per cent believe that they will able to save more money for their future.

Today, focusing on the inequality of the economic recovery is tempting, looking at its instability.  In recent months, the stock market has made remarkable improvements but the rate of unemployment is still high. The economy is still fragile despite the bailouts for large companies and incentive measures carried out to enhance economic growth as well as economic activities that seem moving toward pre-recession level. The factors seem to prevent a full economic recovery include sluggish job growth, weak national real estate markets and gradual improvement of liquid resources lost during the Great Recession. Inequality is the most troublesome issue for many Americans. Resources are being accumulated into the hands of rich minorities. Robert Reich, an economist, reveals that “the gap between poor and rich people in America will continue to widen as long as wealth and income continue to concentrate in the hands of wealthy people and the Great Recession will persist as far as the real economy as concerned” (98). The fundamental nature of Reich’s argument is that Wall Street will successfully discourage any significant improvement on Main Street.  Paul Krugman, another economist, maintains the same position with Robert Reich arguing that “for over three decades ago, the lion’s share of American economic development has been to the few well-to-do Americans and therefore, there is a need to strive for a more equal distribution of resources due to lack of economic growth for lower and middle-class citizens” (221). The importance of Krugman’s argument is that unless the government ratify policies to decrease the income gap, it may not be possible for many Americans to achieve the American dream.

We may have an economy that is growing slowly comparing to people’s expectations, we might have a widening income gap between the rich and the poor and we may have real inequality problems but above all, the American dream is based on ambition. The American dream is according to how a person pictures the way to be successful. However, we have many poverty-stricken people than well-off or more wealth accumulated at the top in the United States. The question we can ask ourselves is does it mean the whole evidence of the American dream is dead? The answer is no. In fact, there are systems of wellbeing, unemployment benefits and the minimum income that were put into place long ago to safeguard the underprivileged Americans. After the Great downturn, the federal government realized that increasing the minimum pay would improve the workers’ output and facilitate the reduction of the income gap (Chetty 400). However, the government effort of increasing the minimum wage has done so little in making the poor better-off. In fact, an increase in minimum remuneration has made labor to be more expensive and companies are forced to reduce the number of workers as well as hiring few workers.

Some politicians and economists, using a different approach to fixing the economy, argue that economic stability and a full recovery can only be achieved by espousing the most productive sectors of the American economy. They claim that the widening income gap between rich and poor does not hinder a person, in the lower and middle-class, from attaining the American dream. Their argument is credible because struggling businesses and government supporting the Wall Street make the economy better. It is necessary to consider how financial institutions and large businesses facilitate several others to achieve economic steadiness and wellbeing (Chetty 402). For example, job opportunities can increase if financial institutions provide money to businesses to encourage them to employ more people. Almost five years ago, the Congress passed a proposal that was presented by President Obama to establish a $ 43 billion tax credit to motivate corporations to employ more employees and raise the current wages (Reich 96). This way could increase the support for Wall Street resulting in a healthier economy as well as increasing opportunities for everyone.

Other politicians and economist argue that increasing taxes on wealthy businesses and on wealthy people can be an efficient way of reducing the income gap.  One economist, Robert Reich, claims that bad policy decisions that have resulted in continuous costly war and the degradation of the education system in the United States are the main cause of economic problems (Reich 102).  The Reich’s primary point is that increasing taxes to achieve greater economic security and solve inequality is lack of using common sense. Paul Krugman (223) and Johnson (52) agree with Robert Reich analysis on raising taxes.  However, the question to ask Robert Reich is, “would increasing taxes still a sensible thing to do given the tough economic climate and the Great Recession that the Americans continue to live in?” it could be that Robert Reich think increasing taxes for the well-to-do individuals would resolve the inequality issues, but in actual sense, it might prevent citizens from realizing the American dream. Chetty (404) claims that the more the wealth concentrates in the hand of the few well-off individuals, the more they will spend it, thus improves the economy. One way of creating jobs is creating wealth and its subsequent use, even in challenging economic periods.  Raising taxes on the wealthy people only reduces their spending capacity and thus their potential to arouse the economy can be debilitated.

However, economist Paul Krugman, in contrast to Robert Reich’s bleak view, responds to the inequality issue and says that “culture may no longer teach and support the rules for achieving the American dream but that does not mean the rules don’t work (228). Indeed, the media suggests that the American dream is basically above the reach of a large number of Americans. Media still devastate us with numerous stories and images of struggling labors and the increasing number of poor Americans. However, we should know that the actual meaning of the American dream is more and more scrubbed off in our society because of “unrestrained liberalism”.  The economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich believe that the American dream is still alive as far as people will realize that there is a possibility of becoming rich in future. Therefore, we should depend on the meaning of the American dream rather than struggling to meddle with the businesses that create jobs and economic growth.  The principle of the American dream is that any person can rise out of economic difficulty and become successful.  It is through these values that the American dream can remain alive for future generation.  Adams (48) states that the effects of the Great Recession have not been killing the American dream but the assurance of decent life in exchange for reliable, hard work to the millions of middle-class citizens. In recent years, the concept of the American dream has suffered although we can understand that this is not new. The government and the American citizens have experienced economic depressions in the past and the American dream has earlier encountered tests and trials. The prime examples of these tests and trials are the 9/11 terrorist attack and the economic downturns of the late 1970s.

 The American dream is based on the promise that people from all walks of life can find success and prosperity here. It is fashioned from our geographical locations, culture, interests, desires, opinions and religion (Johnson 111). America may be known as the land of many opportunities, but success cannot be attained on free handouts. Today, higher education is the most important to achieve the American dream. Attaining a higher education after higher school provides a higher opportunity to be successful, no matter what race, class, religion or caste a person belongs to. High education is also necessary because it provides a chance of harnessing what most people from other countries would desire to achieve in the United States Through higher educational institutions, students get an opportunity to enjoy and live the American dream. Therefore, they should use the resources provided to them to their fullest. These resources and means would facilitate the contribution of scientific research, a higher learning, innovations, higher paying job and making informed decisions. A free public school education is provided to students from elementary level to the end of high school. Students are also offered with an opportunity to continue with their education in advanced educational institutions upon completing a high school education.  A post-high school education is important to further academic excellence. Therefore, the two options await a student upon completing high school is whether to file an application for a job or to continue to improve on their educational means. Although a person has the capability of starting a career at a University, it also means a high school diploma proves that one has minimum education requirements for inspiring jobs such as carpeting or truck driving.


American citizens have modified the principles that surround the American dream to face new challenges ever since the height of the Great Depression. It is important for our generation to take the American dream seriously because it provides an opportunity to achieve the goals one has set for him or herself. Also, the country needs to take the American dream more seriously to achieve true prosperity, climb out of inequality and overcome the effects of the Great Recession. Some years back, most of the American people believed that being successful is having a steady job, having a safe place to live and financial protection for the future or owning a car, home and buying other expensive goods. Today, the Americans do not strive to move from rags to riches, instead, they are determined to attain a stable, middle-class lifestyle.  The government regulations to change income distribution will not keep the American dream alive but the Americans psyche. What also keep the American dream alive is enacting policies and saving more to sustain economic growth for future planning. Higher education is also important to achieve the American dream.  Most Americans have permanently changed their spending habits to achieve the American dream because it is still alive.

Works Cited

Adams, James Truslow. The epic of America. Routledge, 2017.

Chetty, Raj. "The fading American dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940." Science 356.6336 (2017): 398-406.

Goodman, Laurie S., and Christopher Mayer. "Homeownership and the American Dream." Journal of Economic Perspectives 32.1 (2018): 31-58.

Johnson, Heather Beth. The American dream and the power of wealth: Choosing schools and inheriting inequality in the land of opportunity. Routledge, 2014.

Krugman, Paul. End this depression now!

WW Norton & Company, 2012.

Reich, Richard. “The year Wall Street bounced back and Main Street got shafted”. Huffington Post (2012) Accessed from

August 21, 2023




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