Is the American Dream still attainable?

Jamie BallardData Journalist
July 18, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC

The American Dream can be broadly defined as the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. It’s generally thought to be achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance. 

In 2020, do US adults see the American Dream as attainable?  
 
A poll of more than 14,000 people finds that just over half (54%) of US adults think the American Dream is attainable for them. About three in 10 (28%) believe it’s unattainable for them personally, while 9 percent reject the idea of the American Dream entirely.  

There are some generational divides when it comes to perceptions about who can access the American Dream.  

Millennials (46%) are less likely than both older and younger generations to say that they think the American Dream is within reach for them personally. Roughly half of Gen Z (52%) and Gen X (53%) thinks they can attain the American Dream. Baby Boomers (60%) are especially likely to view the American Dream as attainable.  

Almost two in five (37%) people in the United States believe that the American Dream is less attainable today than it was for previous generations. Fewer (29%) believe it’s more attainable today than it was for prior generations, while 16 percent say it’s no more or less attainable now.  

With regards to race, some groups are more likely to believe the American Dream is within their grasp.  

Most Native Americans (57%), white Americans (56%), and Hispanic Americans (53%) see the American Dream as attainable. Half (50%) of Asian Americans say the same, while fewer (45%) Black Americans agree. Roughly one in six (17%) Black Americans say that there is no such thing as the American Dream. 

Roughly half (51%) of US adults overall say that the American Dream is attainable for most people living in America. White Americans (56%) are 13 percentage points more likely than Black Americans (43%) to believe this to be true.  

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Methodology: Total sample size for question “How attainable is the American Dream for you personally?” was 14,078 US adults 18 and older, including 390 members of Generation Z (Born in 2000 or later), 4,019 Millennials (Born 1982-1999), 3,552 members of Generation X (Born 1965-1981), 5,240 Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964), 10,217 White Americans, 1,271 Black Americans, 1,463 Hispanic Americans, 420 Asian Americans, and 154 Native Americans. Total sample size for the question “How attainable is the American Dream for most people living in the US?” was 14,234 US adults 18 and older. Total sample size for the question “Is the American Dream more or less attainable today than for prior generations?” was 14,028 US adults 18 and older. Respondents were provided a definition of the American Dream within the question text, which read, “The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. The American Dream is generally thought to be achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance.” Results are weighted to be representative. For questions or crosstabs, please email uspress@yougov.com

Image: Getty