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The chase for the american dream in the united states

Cue montage of Trumpian bigness, private planes, fancy parties and a series of objects emblazoned with the word TRUMP in gold letters.

The chase for the american dream in the united states

This short sequence is essentially the Cliffs Notes for the American Dream. Hard work will lead seamlessly to stratospheric success, while homelessness is essentially just another word for carelessness. This story, or some version of it, is the mighty engine that propels the American experiment.

Left Behind

Reach for the stars. Be the hero of your own life. As a Brit in America, all this star-spangled exceptionalism feels alien. Telling a British toddler that they, too, could one day be Prime Minister would likely give them nightmares.

Even the actual U.

At its best, the American Dream can be both moving and inspiring, but it is also problematic, not least because it is largely false. Research shows that in reality, American social mobility is among the lowest in the developed world. Far from being the Land of Opportunity, a child born poor in America is more likely to remain poor than in any other comparable country. But because the insistence that this is a meritocracy has been so deeply ingrained, we have internalized the idea that we are all exactly where we deserve to be.

Why the American Dream Is Making You Unhappy

In this story, success is the result not of luck or privilege, but our own personal qualities, talents and hard work. Similarly, failure can never stem from systemic obstacles or difficult circumstances—the fact that good jobs are increasingly scarce, wages are hitting poverty levels and rents are sky-high—but is simply a mark of personal inadequacy.

While Americans are wonderful at big dreams you can become the President! It is a genuine possibility that an American woman might make it to Mars before she gets federally mandated paid maternity leave.

But in reality, the bulk of our wellbeing is not made up from the remote possibility of stratospheric success but from these more low-key aspirations. On a more personal level, the subtle insistence that we should somehow all be striving for greatness can be surprisingly psychologically corrosive.

One of the defining measures of happiness is the size of the gap between our expectations and our reality. The American Dream has become the mass production of unrealistic expectations. But really, small concrete, gains are as important, if not more important to our happiness than big dreams.

What’s Your American Dream Score?

So perhaps our next generation of graduation speeches should encourage us to do something truly inspirational. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.

  • But what about the individuals right here — are young Americans craving their slice of pie and if so, where's the best place to get it?
  • While Americans are wonderful at big dreams you can become the President!
  • Census Bureau, Iowa is the best place for millennials to start their journey towards the American Dream, at least real estate-wise;
  • We welcome outside contributions;
  • Phil Roeder via Flickr;
  • This short sequence is essentially the Cliffs Notes for the American Dream.