Is the American Dream Dead?
Whether it is possible to fulfil America's promise today or not depends on how you choose to view the world.
As with most topics today, Americans are divided on whether the American Dream still exists.
Some say it’s dead. They believe it’s too difficult to get ahead and that the system is rigged against them. Others say it’s still alive and well and that you can achieve whatever you’re truly committed to.
Who is correct?
The first question you have to answer is, “How do you define the American Dream?”
The official definition is a happy way of living that is thought of by many Americans as something that can be achieved by anyone in the U.S., especially by working hard and becoming successful. For most, that means the ability to earn a comfortable income, afford a nice home and have the freedom to live their lives as they choose.
Do we have the ability to earn a comfortable living?
In the past, it was easier to support your family on one income than it is today. Wages have remained stagnant for many Americans for decades. Unless you had an in-demand skill, you probably saw your income freeze while the cost of living has continued to rise, so it can be more difficult to earn a comfortable living for some employees.
Entrepreneurs are generally immune to the wage problem, though. That’s because they decide their pricing, which determines their income. If they are able to deliver significant value in exchange for what they’re charging, they will earn a robust income. This is why entrepreneurship has been growing steadily for over a decade.
The pandemic pushed that growth into overdrive, with a nearly 25% increase between 2019 and 2020. All signs indicate entrepreneurship will continue to grow at a rapid pace. This will be driven by economic uncertainty, the side-hustle lifestyle and growing government intrusion into the workplace.
Can we afford a nice home?
It’s true that home prices have risen sharply in recent years, and that is because of two factors — inflation and demand. As a result, we are facing a shortage of more than five million homes. But at the same time, financing a house is more affordable than it’s been in a long time due to lower interest rates. Homebuyers today can purchase a home that is $48,000 more expensive than a year ago, while still making the same payment. As a result, homeownership is up as well.
Do we have the freedom to live our lives as we choose?
We generally have a fair amount of freedom, although some would argue that it’s continuously being whittled away by burdensome regulations and growing government intrusion. This was painfully apparent in the handling of the pandemic lockdowns. A growing number of people are expressing their opinion about increasing government intrusion and its negative impact on their lives.
So is the American Dream dead?
I say no, the American Dream is not dead. It’s absolutely still alive and well — for now. Stuart Varney, the host of Varney & Co., My Take with Stuart Varney, and American Built on Fox Business, agrees. “I think I am an example of the American Dream because I came to America 48 years ago and didn’t have much by way of background or money or anything else and built it up to where I am today by putting in the work that was necessary," he says. "What always seemed clear to me [is that] Americans don’t care much about who you are or what your parents did. They just want to know [the answer to], ‘Here’s the job. Can you do it, and how well can you do it?’ So in that sense, I think the American Dream is still very much alive and well.”
And I agree. The American Dream was never about being handed a utopia. It was about having the opportunity to pursue your dreams and build a better life for yourself. That opportunity never came with a guarantee, nor will it ever.
It’s up to each of us to pursue the American Dream, and that means putting in the hard work and overcoming the challenges that stand in the way.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor