The American Dream Ten Years After

Gen Z/Millennials don’t relate to the traditional notions of the American Dream as much: Just half of Gen Z/Millennials (54%) say living in freedom is a top factor of the American Dream vs (83%) of Seniors 65+, and less than half (43%) of Gen Z/Millennials say owning a home vs (61%) of Seniors 65+. And despite the enormous economic dislocation of younger people in the pandemic, (50%) of Gen Z/Millennials say being financially secure is a top factor vs (77%) of Seniors 65+. 

New Values and a New Reality: Perhaps the difference between our nation’s youth and elders comes from a mix of reality in attaining The American Dream, matched with rising new values for our nation’s youth: Nearly half (46%) of Gen Z/Millennials say the American Dream is not attainable and nearly a third of Gen Z/Millennials (28%) say the pandemic has made them rethink empathy and community as part of the American Dream. 

The pandemic has created new obstacles to the dream, especially for our kids: Nearly 4 in 10 (37%) parents say the pandemic has made access to education more complicated, and (34%) of parents say it has made it challenging for kids to get ahead.  (62%) of parents today say the pandemic will have a lasting impact on today’s young children. 

Pandemic Parents: Amid unprecedented school closures, something parents in 2009 were not faced with, today’s parents in crisis have new concerns, 44% fear their kids are missing out on learning due to stay-home orders. This is at a time when getting ahead means, even more, today 50% of parents say children doing better than parents is a top factor of the American dream vs 23% of parents who said this in 2009. 

Top factors of the American Dream today:

  • Living in freedom (69%) – 54% Gen Z/Millennials vs 83% Seniors 65+
  • Being financially secure (65%)
  • Having a good job (56%)
  • Owning a home (55%) 
  • Democracy (52%) 
  • Getting a decent education (50%)
  • Children do better than parents (43%)

How attainable is the American Dream of homeownership today?

  • (66%) somewhat/very attainable 
  • (34%) not at all/not very attainable 

Which of the following statements do you agree with about how the pandemic has changed the American Dream? 

  • Made living in freedom a thing of the past (25%) 
  • Made democracy look bad (21%) 
  • Reinforced shared national values (19%)
  • Revitalized our national sense of patriotism (19%)
  • Made the American Dream a thing of the past (19%)
  • Made homeownership a thing of the past (13%) 
  • Pandemic has not changed the American Dream (18%)