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Poll: The American Dream is out of reach

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American Dream

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The American Dream is impossible to achieve in this country.

So say nearly 6 in 10 people who responded to CNNMoney’s American Dream Poll, conducted by ORC International. They feel the dream — however they define it — is out of reach.

Young adults, age 18 to 34, are most likely to feel the dream is unattainable, with 63% saying it’s impossible. This age group has suffered in the wake of the Great Recession, finding it hard to get good jobs.

Younger Americans are a cause of great concern. Many respondents said they are worried about the next generation’s ability to prosper.

Some 63% of all Americans said most children in the U.S. won’t be better off than their parents. This dour view comes despite most respondents, 54%, feeling they are better off than their own parents.

The downbeat mood is not surprising, say economic mobility experts.

“The pessimism is reflective of the financial realities a lot of families are facing,” said Erin Currier, the director of the Economic Mobility Project at Pew Charitable Trusts. “They are treading water, but their income is not translating into solid financial security.”

The vast majority of Americans have higher incomes than their parents, but that’s in large part because most families have two earners now, she said. Only half have more wealth, she said. Meanwhile, the savings rate is low and unemployment is high. College costs are rising faster than inflation and student loan debt is exploding.

People also tend to be more pessimistic about the next generation’s fortunes in general than their own children’s prospects, Currier said. In Pew’s polls and focus groups, parents say that it will be tougher for their children to succeed, but they still believe it’s possible.

Perceptions, however, aren’t supported by the facts, experts said.

The American Dream is not dead, said Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families.

Two landmark studies released earlier this year concluded that mobility is worse in the U.S. than in many other developed countries, but has not changed significantly over time. Researchers found significant differences in mobility across the nation. Those who live in areas with higher economic growth, better schools and fewer African-American residents have a greater chance to climb the economic ladder.

“Mobility is an issue, but it hasn’t gotten any worse,” Haskins said.

CNNMoney’s American Dream Poll comes from telephone interviews with 1,003 adult Americans, conducted by ORC International from May 29 to June 1, 2014. Both landlines and cell phones were included in the sample.

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


  • Callie Tsai (@cyzomaca)

    The problem is associating the American Dream with owning a house. You can be happy, healthy, and free without a mortgage, property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, etc. I mean… What’s wrong with renting?? When all cash flows are considered, renting costs less, which means you’ll have more money to save & invest. Over the long run, the stock market averages +10%/yr.
    So the 20% downpayment, 3-5% closing costs, 5-6% selling costs every time you move (average US home borrower moves every 7 years), property taxes, maintenance, insurance, is all money that could have been invested.
    If you look at everything (all cash flows considered), you spend less money when you rent! Between property tax, insurance, maintenance, mowing the lawn, fixing the roof, etc. etc. plus the extra utility costs you’re spending a lot of money that could be invested instead. What’s wrong with renting??
    Learn from the past people! (Of course they look at me like I’m crazy when I suggest they cut a $100+ a month cable bill. Or drive a car that is 3 years old. Or only fill up their tank from the cheapest place according to GasBuddy. Or get $25/month budget car insurance from Insurance Panda. Or cook their own food instead of spending a hundred a week on restaurant food (or far more if they like the bar).)
    Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Shiller was one of the few people who accurately called both the stock market crash of 2000, AND the real estate crash of the late 2000s. He says that owning a home is a terrible investment.

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