Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Decline of the American Dream in the U.S.

Everyone around the world knows the American Dream. According to The Cheat Sheet, a USA Today content partner, the American Dream is "a concept that doesn't have a strict definition, but is typically explained as the ability to improve one's standing in society through hard work and education, and ultimately share a piece of America's prosperity with a home, property, and other basic necessities." We learn the classic "rags-to-riches" Horatio Alger story in classroom where impoverished boys rise from their humble backgrounds to middle-class security through honesty, determination, and hard work. While most of us take it for granted that anyone can achieve upward social mobility, the American Dream has become less realistic today. Economic mobility has stunted for most Americans due to several factors: stagnant wage growth, increase in low-wage jobs, the rising cost of living and health care, mounting student debt, and the decline of organized labor. The American Dream that we proudly cherish has become more unattainable than ever, particularly among historically disenfranchised communities of color.

That is, the American Dream is now easier to attain for people who live outside of America than those who live in it. Or, another way to put it is that economic mobility has been stunted in the U.S. As far back as 2004 the progressive think tank The Century Foundation argued that "recent evidence shows that there is much less mobility in the United States than most people assume," and that "rags to rags and riches to riches are now the norm in this country to a greater degree than in many other developed nations."

It goes on to say: "Our current education system, anti-discrimination laws, and other public policy tools that aim to give the children of poor parents a fair shot at a high income are not getting the job done. We may all believe in the American Dream, but we have a lot of work to do if we are to make that dream a reality."

Related Content: Why is Social Welfare So Expensive? (Cheat Sheet)

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