Is upward social mobility still a possibility for all?

Is this the end of the American Dream?

POPSCI: A scientific slant on what’s trending in popular culture

The American Dream epitomises the idea that we are in control of our own fate; that we get out of life exactly what we put in. It’s loosely defined as the opportunity for upward mobility, achieved solely through hard work. And it’s a cornerstone of America’s national ethos, woven into the very fabric of American culture and held aloft by everyone from John Steinbeck to Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Scott Fitzgerald to Oprah Winfrey. It’s spurred millions of people around the globe to up sticks in search of it. It’s irrevocably romantic — but could the dream now be dead?

According to almost half of Gen Yers, it is. Harvard’s Institute of Politics poll found that when asked if they considered the American dream alive or dead, 48% of 18- to 29-year-olds leant towards the latter. While marginally more (49%) viewed it as alive and well, it’s a powerful indictment of American society that almost half of Gen Yers believe the American Dream to be just that — a dream.

“It’s disturbing that about half of the largest generation in America doesn’t believe the American dream is there for them personally,” says John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director. “That frustration is tied into a government they don’t trust and they don’t think is working for them.”

But there’s another explanation. Over the last four decades, the beating heart of America — its middle class — has shrunk significantly. Research from Pew highlights that for the first time in a long time, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in economics tiers above and below. This is of particular concern for Gen Yers, who’ve seen the biggest drop in income status since 1971. Could this be proof that ‘The Land of Equal Opportunity’ is now nothing more than a relic of the past?

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Written by Adam Steel, behavioural analyst at Canvas8