Is the American Dream Still Alive Today? The American Dream is still alive today in some senses and in others not. In 1931 James Truslow Adams said that the American Dream is “… that dream of land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyman, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. ” I agree that this still holds true today but disagree for many reasons as well. In today’s society there are many things that complicate the American Dream.. There are many systemic barriers that can get in the way of achieving this dream, which we will explore.
It is hard to narrow down the American Dream to just one thing, because honestly it is just an accumulation of many factors that will either enhance or lessen your chances of achieving the American Dream. However, I agree with Adams that it is “… a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain… and be recognized by others for what they are regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position. ” You should be able to get a good job and live a full life regardless of race or where you were born as long as you are qualified.
My dad for example grew up poor but climbed his way out of poverty because he wanted to give his family things that he didn’t have growing up. He was always good at building things so he got a job as a construction worker at a company in the Bay Area, which builds housing for wealthy people. He started at the bottom of the ladder and moved his way up to becoming supervisor. This is proof that it doesn’t matter your social status of where you start but rather how good you are and how hard you want to work. He was able to achieve the American dream in a sense because we are a financially stable amily and have everything we want and need and we are happy.
The essay “The American Dream: Dead, Alive or on Hold” by Brandon King helps to explore complications of the American Dream such as the inequality of Americans. King shares a view that is close to mine, he said, “Today, most people do not strive for a rags-to-riches transition and instead prefer a stable, middle-class lifestyle… ” (573). This can be conflicting with Adam’s older version of the dream, in the 1930’s the depression caused more people to want to climb out of poverty and become rich.
With King’s claim being said, he goes on to say that the American Dream is not dead even though there may be an inequality among Americans. However he said, “… the safeguards of the welfare system, including the minimum wage and unemployment benefits, were long put in place to protect the poorest Americans” (575). This shows that although some things may complicate the American Dream you can still overcome your barriers if you are willing to work hard and with the aid of these special programs, which can also include things financial aid.
Raji Chetty also dicusssed the idea of “upward mobility” which is moving from a bad neighborhood to a better one(Chetty). It was found that the younger you were when you moved, the better chances you had at making more money compared to someone who stayed in that neighborhood. So, again there are some systemic barriers but they can be overcome, perhaps by moving or taking advantage of welfare programs. These ideas show that Adam’s view of the American Dream can still be used today because it is based on how hard you want to work and that your social order doesn’t have to be a disadvantage because of many programs designed to help this.
It is true that the dream is not fully just material goods and wealth, but you can’t ignore that this is still a part of the dream either. Adams said it is a dream to live a “… better and richer and fuller… ” life (Adams). Many people tie this idea back to living a better life than their parents. The article, “The American Dream, Quantified at Last” by David Leonhardt explores research done on this very idea. The overall results show the trend that older generations on average made more money than their parents.
For example, in 1940, 92% of Americans made more money than their parents but in 1980 that number dropped to about 50% (Leonhardt). This decrease can be tied to many things. As time goes on more and more technology is taking jobs from people and work is being sent to cheaper places overseas such as China or India. Student debt and the competition in the job field can also contribute to these statistics. However Adams did say that it”… is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely… “(Adams). So although people may not be making more money than their parents, it is still about having the opportunity to do so.
Again, the American Dream is not dead just complicated a bit more. Other things can complicate the American Dreams as well. Again, referring back to my dad, he loved baseball and wanted to play more seriously. He had the talent to possibly go somewhere big with it. However, some systematic barriers or rather reality got in the way of this. He couldn’t afford to go to college and play baseball for fun, so he got a job shortly after high school because he needed to support himself.
There are things that get in the way of the American Dream regardless of the “… pportunity for each according to his ability or achievement”(Adams). Another article called, “How College Debt is Crushing the American Dream” by Eric Pianin explores the idea that maybe it really isn’t about how hard you work. This questions Adams’ definition of the American dream and perhaps sheds a new light on this dream in today’s society. He told the story of how a young girl, “Megan Curtis put herself through college and graduate school by working part-time jobs and taking out substantial student loans” (Pianin). However, once she graduated she struggled to find a job.
Finally, when she found a steady job she still continued to struggle to pay for all her expenses and college loans of $600 a month. Pianin also said, “Once viewed as a reasonably priced ticket to a good job and promising career, a four-year college education these days can cost a family as much as nearly a quarter of a million dollars – the equivalent of a corporate executive’s annual salary – with no guarantee of a good-paying job to follow”(Pianin). This is important because this in a sense can attribute to why some children may not be making more money than their parents have.
This is because more people are going to college now than ever before. This complicates the American Dream because although there are welfare programs to help these costs, it can still make achieving the American Dream more difficult. The article, written in 2012 also said that, “Last year, student debt in the U. S. surpassed $1 trillion, and for the first time exceeded the total amount of credit card debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York” (Pianin). This is just one difference from the 1930’s when Adams wrote The epic of America.
College tuition is now more expensive than in the 1930’s, and competition has only increased. Again, even if you work hard and go to college there is no guarantee that you will do better than your parents or live a stable life. Raj Chetty, at Harvard University also did some research on “The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Economic Opportunity”(Chetty). This research discussed the ideas of money on the American Dream. One graph that was used expressed the trend of the “Probability that a child born in the bottom fifth of the income distribution reaches the top fifth”(Raj Chetty).
He found surprisingly that if you consider this to be the American Dream then, the “chances of achieving the ‘American Dream’ are almost two times higher in Canada than the U. S. ” However, this is comparing the United States to another better off country. If you compared the United States to a country like Iraq, I am sure the numbers would be much different, and much more impressive. This is still a land where great things are possible in comparison to many poorer countries.
And, yes maybe this Dream which began in America has started to spread to other countries like Canada, but can still be best felt in America, through its citizens. In the essay “The Way We Were” by David Kamp he said, “What needs to change is our expectation of what the dream promises—and our understanding of what that vague and promiscuously used term, “the American Dream,” is really supposed to mean” Kamp. Everyone has a different view of the American Dream whether it be striking it rich, having a stable life, making more money than your parents, or having equal opportunities.
Whatever way you view this dream it is easy to see that the American Dream is not dead, just complicated. Adams said that people should “… be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth”(Adams). This is one part of his dream that definitely still holds true today, because race and social status are not as important as they once were, even back in the 1930’s. Yes, the dream may be complicated at times but is still alive in many aspects.