The Unreachable American Dream

A recent New York Times poll found “that only 64 percent of respondents said they still believed in the American dream, the lowest result in roughly two decades.” The American Dream posits that just about anyone can prosper and find upward mobility in this country by working hard. One respondent explained: “The decks have been stacked against not only the lower class but also the lower middle class.” Wages have remained stagnant while housing and food costs have risen, and the costs of higher education continue to rise and saddle graduates with debt. The Times doesn’t mention race, but it’s possible that the Eric Garner and Ferguson cases have also demonstrated to us that not everyone in our country starts out with the same opportunities to succeed. Later in the poll, just 52 percent of respondents agree that the economic system in the U.S. is fair. I considered how I would answer this question: “Do you think it is possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich?” Looking at the data, looking at my own family, and seeing everything happening in the news, it’s hard not to say, “No, I don’t think it’s possible — not for everyone.”

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