A new poll suggests that young white Americans are losing faith in the idea of the American dream. This is likely caused by lingering effects from the Great Recession and the lack of increasing wages for average American workers. The poll featured respondents between the ages of 18 and 35.
A similar poll was also conducted in 1986. At that time, only 12% of young Americans said that the American dream “is not really alive”. Now in 2015, that figure has increased sharply to 29%. The growth was most prominent among white respondents without a college degree.
Currently, one out of every three young white Americans without a college degree say that the American dream is dead. Meanwhile, only one out of every five young white college graduates will make the same statement.
In 1986, non-whites were about twice as likely as white people to say that the American dream is dead. Now, whites and non-whites are about equally as likely to express such pessimism.
However, young African Americans are still more likely to say that the American dream has no meaning to them personally. About one-third of all African-Americans stated that the American dream is meaningless to them. This was roughly double the rate of whites and Hispanics.
As for respondents who said that the idea of the American dream means something to them personally, most said that the American dream is harder to achieve than it once was. This was especially true for whites, as six out of ten white college graduates and seven out of ten white non-college graduates said that it’s more difficult to achieve the American dream. Only slightly more than half of non-whites made a similar statement.
While there are still income disparities between whites and blacks, both groups have experienced only slight increases in median wages since 1987. Last year, the median household income for whites between the ages of 25-34 was $58,197. For blacks of this age group, it was $43,957. Both of these values only represent a slight increase from 1987. However, Hispanics have experienced a 7% increase in median wages since 1987, as they have risen to $42,916.
Additionally, the Millennials are defining the American dream differently than Gen Xers typically did in the 80s. Gen Xers were more likely to say that owning a home, having the freedom of choice, and having the ability to become wealthy were the most important aspects of the American dream. Now, Millennials are saying that running a business and being viewed as a leader represents the American dream.
Whether or not the American dream is alive, it’s clear that many young people are starting to lose confidence in the country.