How is the American Dream holding up?

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

The American Dream: a social and idealized construct that holds the hope of a better life in the United States.

The term defines a set of ideals, that promises something more than what the previous generation had. It's a life of overwhelming wealth in a white picket fenced house with a stable job and the notion that all your dreams are coming true. At least that’s what it was 50 years ago. Is that definition of the American Dream —the one that rose to fame— still a reality? It might be time to redefine the idea, or maybe we already did. 


Today, in a particularly tense political climate, do Americans still believe in this seemingly perfect image of the U.S.A.? Does the hope of a better life still seem possible? Does the United States of 2019 still hold the appeal it once did?

Redefining a Dream

Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Americans seem more than ever divided by their values and ideals. For a lot of Americans, the day he took office was the beginning of a spiraling downfall for the United States. Although the past two and a half years have been far from an American Dream in the White House, is that enough to destroy this nationwide feeling of hope? 

Samuel J. Abrams partnered with the American Enterprise Institute and the NORC research center to prove that it wasn’t. According to their research, the American Dream is alive and well. As they spoke to over 2,400 Americans, the majority of them— a solid 85%— defined the American Dream as the ability “to have freedom of choice in how to live”. The more traditional factors like wealth or success seemed to hold less of an appeal in the definition of the term. The research also showed that most Americans believe they are living the American Dream, maybe not the original definition of it, but a newer, modernized version.

Hiding America’s Cracks

The American Dream today represents the glimmer of hope left for millions of Americans who don’t want to forget what their country means to them. It’s the United States we want and wish to show the world. A blue, white and red squared piece of cloth and the hopeful feeling that Hollywood and Broadway are where dreams come true. The American Dream is a bigger picture of America— a way to show the world we aren’t falling apart. Robin Givhan, journalist at the Washington Post says it herself, “America does better with a wide-angle view of itself — with an aesthetic drive-by. With a cinematic montage. The close-ups — the ones that show the cracks and blemishes — are simply too uncomfortable.” 

As America evolves and Americans step up for what they think is right, we discover a brand new American Dream— one that promotes freedom. Americans don’t seem as interested as they once were with the idea of being wealthy and having a stable family life and career. They want to matter; they want to speak up and make a difference. They want to be free to do whatever they want and that’s the American Dream today. Since the concept’s rise to fame in the 1930s, the American Dream has come to mean many different things to many different people in America and across the world. Today, the path to success is blurred and new generations are changing its meaning with jobs and career paths that could’ve once never been imagined. To live the American Dream is to be free and how to be free is up to you.

The grass is still greener on the other side.

As days go by and since 2016, the political climate in the United States is getting tenser. However, despite the countless issues that seem to be throwing the country into a tornado of political and social issues, the world still sees America as a dream destination— at least for now. Ordinary people become worldwide stars overnight in the United States; careers go into high gear underneath L.A. palm trees and in between N.Y.C. skyscrapers; but is the United States still a tourist destination? Most non-Americans would say yes. Living what seems to be an extraordinary life in the United States is what a lot of people outside of the country deem as the American Dream. Little do they know, this country— the one they dream of— is the same country that a lot of Americans are living in today and consider to be an American nightmare.