The American Dream Child

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The American Dream has been ingrained into our society for hundreds of years and is an immutable part of our national consciousness. Despite being so distinctly American, in many ways it is enigmatic and evades definition. Its meaning changes depending on which American out of 320 million is asked. To some, it evokes an image of a sterile suburbia covered with newly built homes and inhabited by a mother, father, and their 2.5 children, or the entrepreneur with four sports cars and millions in real estate. Others view it less materialistic and more as a lofty ideal, built into the very psyche of America which sets it apart from other countries, centering around equality of opportunity and the ability for anyone to achieve what they want through…show more content…
Having children who are more successful than them is a critical goal for many a mother and father, if not to have someone who will support them in their older days. Being stuck in a stagnant economic situation could also hardly be considered achieving a dream that espouses growth and mobility. One of the most common ways parents pursue this is sending their children to college or any other type of postsecondary education, sometimes against their will. Recent generations have grown up bombarded with the message that if they don’t go to college, they’ll be flipping burgers for the rest of their lives. While the benefit a college education confers on its recipient in finding employment and higher wages is well documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (and this varies greatly among majors), the push towards more education has not yielded an equivalent increase in mobility compared to older generations as might be expected. Chetty et al. in their paper The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940 find that “...rates of absolute mobility have fallen from approximately 90% for children born in 1940 to 50% for children born in the 1980s.” (Chetty et al. abstract) The authors control for variables like inflation, taxes, and definition of income, and do not find any significant difference. The…show more content…
Although I don’t discount the experiences of others, I focus on big picture statistics since the question is after all if the American Dream is achievable for everyone. One person’s experience will not apply to everyone else, but these numbers are an aggregate of everyone’s experience here in the United States and they paint a bleaker picture than may be otherwise believed. If you have a talent and interest in high skill fields like STEM that are having explosive growth then the American Dream can appear as vibrant as ever. But the stereotypical vision of the older generations where a high school graduate can get a blue or white collar job straight out of school and a new two story are six feet in the ground. For many, a future of low-skilled service jobs awaits them, even for graduates with the wrong degree, along with stagnant wages and increasing
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