The American dream holds that every citizen of the United States has a fair opportunity to achieve equal measures of success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.
Intergenerational progress then ensures succeeding generations not only share in that success but build on it and will be better off than their parents.
Two polls run counter to that perceived wisdom with more Americans despairing their hard work will deliver less and their children will not be better off than their forebears.
The Wall Street Journal asked respondents whether they believe “the American Dream — that if you work hard you’ll get ahead — still holds true.” The results show:
- Just 36 percent said it does hold true vs. 18 percent who said it never held true and 45 percent who said it once held true, but not anymore.
- Compare that to surveys in 2012 and 2016, when 53 percent and 48 percent respectively said the American dream held true. Those polls were taken by a different pollster, PRRI, with different methodology, but the downward trend is clear.
A notable gap exists in the belief in the American dream among different key demographics although there is a shared disappointment in the ability to do well in an economy that appears stacked against lower paid workers, as inew News reported.
Despite the lowest rate of unemployment in decades, more than a third of Americans say they are losing ground financially. https://t.co/4Ceo0mqerz
— inew News (@inewNews) May 23, 2023
Women were more pessimistic about the state of the American dream than men, according to the WSJ poll, while younger people were much more pessimistic than those over 65.
The survey underscores a growing sense of economic insecurity and skepticism about the path to better living standards.
Half of the voters feel life in America has worsened over the past 50 years and believe the political and economic system is stacked against them.
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Compared to previous polls, the percentage of people who believe the American dream was never a reality more than doubled.
In another NBC poll, a record-low 19 percent of respondents said they were confident their children’s generation would be better off than their own.
That’s the lowest level the poll has recorded on this question dating back to 1990.