Posts Tagged ‘American Dream’

American Dream, Twisting

A political solicitation from the Democrats that I just got reads, “We have to do everything we can to make sure that [the] opportunity to pursue the American dream is still possible today.” The 2012 Republican platform highlighted its program for “Restoring the American Dream.” “The American Dream” seems often under threat and just out of grasp.

(Those three words, by the way, emerged as a catchphrase only in the 1930s. Now, the Library of Congress lists 900 book titles using it, the first published in 1934, Religion and the American Dream, and the last, scheduled for 2014, Between Islam and the American Dream.)

Mark Rank, Thomas A. Hirschl, and Kirk A. Foster have a book coming out next spring, Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes, which helps clarify what average Americans hear when they hear the words, “The American Dream.” The book also helps clarify why so many Americans feel that the dream is drifting out of reach. Whether Americans attain that dream, Rank and colleagues say, is increasingly subject to — borrowing from Bob Dylan — a “simple twist of fate.” And finally, the forthcoming book may also help clarify why Americans are not politically mobilized to save that Dream.


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Home Owning Dreams

Owning one’s own home seems vital to being an American; it is intimately tied  to our understanding of the “American Dream.” The headline of a 2008 Newsweek story on the foreclosure crisis blared “The American Dream – Only This Time in Reverse.”  When NPR recently broadcast a story that rates of home ownership had dropped from a peak of  69% in 2005 to 66%, the voices on the radio carried the melancholy tone of loss.


However, the dream of home ownership, complete with a white picket fence, was not always considered the ultimate test of making it in America. There was a time when many affluent Americans preferred to rent, leaving home-buying to striving immigrants. Then, in the mid-twentieth century, Uncle Sam helped make home ownership the American Dream.


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