Why the American dream is unattainable

Subject: Culture
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Word count: 637
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Most people living in the United States have, at one point in their lives, wanted to live the American dream. However, the dream has always seemed vague and has been deemed as an elusive realization, a fantasy that has remained so to many American Citizens. The American dream is a national belief deeply rooted in the Declaration of Independence. It asserts that all men are equal and specifies the ideal factors such as rights and equality, democracy and freedom that accords every individual equal opportunity and achieve their life goals (Popp, 2021). The American dream is just that, a dream, a mirage for diverse job seekers and lies far out of reach for many people, not due to any individual shortcomings but due to the diverse and unique mix of cultural, social, and economic forces which not only condition and affect but also determine life outcomes.

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Wealth Inequality throughout America

In  America, wealth distribution is not equitable, and this has grown such that the system is weighted against those wanting to pull themselves from poverty. The inequality makes it hard for the whites to achieve the dream and certainly makes it impossible for the people of colour to live above the existing living standards, let alone achieve the American dream. For instance, too much poverty in the country, as well as systemic racism, which includes job discrimination and redlining, keeps people of colour from the dream (Nunez, 2016). Most Americans believe that there is structural unfairness in the system. A major cause of income inequality is the increasing gaps in academic achievement and educational attainments. While college gets more expensive by the day, wages remain low. This then leads to a scenario where the poor continue to sink into poverty while the rich get richer as they can afford to take their children to world-class colleges and consequently attain better jobs. It is implausible for a poor person to work out of poverty as the system is designed to keep people in their places.

Low-relative social mobility

Contrary to the common perception that the United States is the “ land of opportunity”, there is relatively low social mobility in America. This refers to the likelihood of a child born to a low-income family climbing to the top of the income ladder as an adult. This is low in the United States compared to most European countries (Weele, 2019). Moreover, there is a distinctive welfare state in the United States with less social insurance and low labour union penetration than most developed countries. The United States relies on consumer credit to met the needs of its citizens  that other developed countries cover through social insurance programs.

Changing global economy of the world

One of the significant issues affecting the achievement of the American dream is the wide generational gap between the time the philosophy was conceived and now. While it was perfectly viable for high school students to pay for part of their college education by taking hourly jobs, that is not possible today. Problems such as inflation and increased cost of living have increased at an alarming rate, yet the national minimum wage has not increased proportionally to the cost of living (Rubin, 2014). It is no longer possible for a college education from summer jobs like a few years ago. It is impossible to live the previous generation’s lives during the birth of “the American Dream.”

The American dream has, therefore, never been real to most Americans and has served as an unachievable standard for generations for people with different backgrounds. The concept, mainly used by the older generation as a reflection of their success in achieving the impossible, promotes consumerism and capitalism as social norms. The sad concept has created a low-level sense of inadequacy and anxiety in American life, where anything short of greatness is deemed as a failure.

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  1. Nunez, C. (2016, April 25). The American Dream Is Almost Unattainable For Immigrants. The Odyssey Online. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-transformation-of-the-american-dream
  2. Popp, M. (2021, March 15). Why the American Dream is Unachievable for All. The Panther Eye. https://panthereye.news/blog/2021/03/15/why-the…
  3. Rubin, B. A. (2014). Employment Insecurity and the Frayed American Dream. Sociology Compass, 8(9), 1083–1099. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12200
  4. Weele, C. V. (2019, March 20). The “American Dream” is unattainable. The Daily Aztec. https://thedailyaztec.com/93858/opinion/the-american-dream-is-unattainable
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