Ask any millennial* what the American Dream used to be, and most would describe Gastby-esque houses and enough money to buy on-or two-private jets. As the world becomes faster-paced and ridden with new forms of technology gracing our newsfeeds every year, the ideal American Dream has shifted to mean different things for different people.
Since the end of World War II, the American Dream has changed from a white-picket fence and 2.5 children along with a perfect marriage, to an abundance of experiences rather than things, a career that fulfills a passion with a basic level of financial enjoyment, and a lifestyle that appears to promote health. Defining “success” across the generations seems to have changed significantly as the economy worsens and the relevance of issues like climate change and gun violence seem to be at an all-time high. However, the idea that this generation is the most entitled generation to grace the planet with our social media and technological advances is still prevalent. But those who claim that millennials are more entitled than their predecessors seem to forget that the Baby-Boomer generation was also dubbed the “Me Generation” due to the addition of self-realization and self-fulfillment to their ideas of success. So are we really any more (or less) selfish than those who raised us?
Not only has the idea of success changed; the idea that the American Dream even exists anymore is hotly debated. Harvard University’s Institute of Politics asked 18 to 29-year olds: “For you personally, is the idea of the American Dream alive or dead?”. 48% responded “dead,” while 49% stated “alive”.
“It is disturbing that about half of the largest generation in America doesn’t believe the American Dream is there for them personally,” John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director, says. “That frustration, I think, is tied into a government they don’t trust and they don’t think is working for them.”
Education, political affiliation, and gender were important factors in this survey, with 61% of people who voted for Donald Trump stating that the American Dream was dead, as well as 56% of Bernie Sanders voters claiming the same thing. Females (55%), African-Americans (56%), and those with only a high school diploma (58%) believe the same as well, causing us as a generation to question: where does the American Dream start? And where does it end? Many would claim that it was left behind in the dust of the 2008 economic crisis and others would say our expectations are too high. Maybe it’s time for America to wake up from this dream and face reality, or perhaps it’s time for us to start dreaming again.
*Millennials are defined, for the purpose of this article, as those who were born after 1980.