What Does the American Dream Mean Today?

Here at NWEI, we’re often caught discussing what the “American Dream” means today – and how much it has changed in recent years. How will our children fare in the future? Will there be enough natural resources to go around? What are we working so hard for anymore? What is true quality of life? How can we simplify and live more sustainably? How—and how successfully—are Americans achieving the “American Dream?” This question is at the heart of the Center for a New American Dream’s 2014 National Survey, conducted in partnership with Policy Interactive.


The survey sheds light on the topics of advertising, the environment, consumption, and the sharing economy.

Major findings include:

1. The majority of Americans believe that it is more difficult to achieve the American Dream than it was a decade ago, due primarily to the high costs of education and healthcare.

2. Americans who have chosen to work fewer hours report an overall improvement in quality of life, indicating that this shift has positively affected their lives by allowing for more free time and reduced stress.

3. Americans are interested in increasing their sharing practices and learning more about the sharing economy. Over half of respondents believe that sharing lowers environmental impact, builds community, and helps save money.

4. Americans feel strongly that the way we live produces too much waste, and that our high consumption levels are largely responsible for global environmental problems. An overwhelming majority feel that we will need to make major changes in the way we live to counterbalance this phenomenon.

5. Americans believe that commercialism and advertising have gotten out of hand in the United States, and that the government should do more to combat it. Almost three-quarters of Americans believe there should be limits on advertising to children, including limits on advertising in public spaces and in schools.

6. Millennials make use of sharing economy services—such as bike sharing and peer-to-peer lodging—at a rate more than double their Baby Boomer and Gen X peers, and are interested in expanding their sharing practices. They are also more optimistic than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers that they will be able to achieve the American Dream.

7. Non-white Americans are more interested in sharing practices than white Americans.

*To read the full blog post from Center for New American Dream and learn more, click here.



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