American Dream

The concept of the American Dream is based on the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, and tells us that “All men are created equal . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . . including . . . Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” As a result, America has always been considered an oasis of freedom for oppressed people from all over the world.

American Dream (Wikipedia)

The American Dream is the national ethos of the United States, that every person has the freedom and opportunity to succeed and attain a better life. The phrase was popularized by James Truslow Adams during the Great Depression in 1931, and has had different meanings over time. Originally, the emphasis was on democracy, liberty and equality, but more recently has been on achieving material wealth and upward mobility.

Liberty Enlightening the World (the Statue of Liberty) in New York Harbor was the first view of the United States for many immigrants during the mid-19th to the early 20th century. In this role, it signified new opportunities for becoming American, and evolved into a symbol of the American Dream.

Adams defined it as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. [...] It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position".

The tenets of the American Dream originate from the Declaration of Independence, which states that "all men are created equal", and have an inalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". The Preamble to the Constitution states similarly that the Constitution's purpose is to, in part, "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". It is said to be a set of ideals including representative democracy, rights, liberty, and equality, in which freedom is interpreted as the opportunity for individual prosperity and success, as well as the chance for upward social mobility for each according to ability and achievement through hard work in a capitalist society with many challenges but few formal barriers.[citation needed]

Evidence indicates that in recent decades social mobility in the United States has declined, and income inequality has risen. Social mobility is lower in the US than in many European countries, especially the Nordic countries. Despite this, many Americans are likely to believe they have a better chance of social mobility than Europeans do. The US ranked 27th in the 2020 Global Social Mobility Index. A 2020 poll found 54% of American adults thought the American Dream was attainable for them, while 28% thought it was not. Black and Asian Americans, and younger generations were less likely to believe this than whites, Hispanics, native Americans and older generations. Women are more skeptical of achieving the American Dream than men are.

Belief in the American Dream is often inversely associated with rates of national disillusionment. Some critics have said that the dominant culture in America focuses on materialism and consumerism, or puts blame on the individual for failing to achieve success. Others have said that the labor movement is significant for delivering on the American Dream and building the middle class, yet in 2024 only 10% of American workers were members of a labor union, down from 20% in 1983. The American Dream has also been said to be tied to American exceptionalism, and does not acknowledge the hardships many Americans have faced in regards to American slavery, Native American genocide, Jim Crow laws and their legacies, as well as other examples of discriminatory violence.