Is the American Dream Over Glorified?

Credit Pew Research Center

Credit Pew Research Center

Kaen Yang, Hour 4

The “American Dream”, “Come to America, start from the bottom and build your way into wealth”. Throughout history, America has been the place to immigrate to. Where you have the best chances of survival. Where you can build your way into wealth and live a lavish life. However, the belief of the “American Dream” is over glorified.

In an article explaining his struggles of being a first generation college student from a working class family, Anthony Abraham Jack, states that “We like to think that landing a coveted college spot is a golden ticket for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We think less critically about what happens next.” Attending college for further education is a part of the American Dream. Extend your knowledge, earn a degree, get a job with that degree that you’ll make massive profits from. The harsh reality is that, in America, our economy does not allow you to do anything without paying first. Being from the working class and a first generation college student makes college much more difficult. For some students, they might have to work multiple jobs in order to fund their education. Creating a difficult situation where they have to allocate enough time for school, studying, work, and homework while simultaneously maintaining a healthy balance between all of them. Nobody said it would be easy. But nobody said it would be this hard.

With the recent global inflation crisis, those attempting to achieve the American Dream are suffering extremely. In a NPR podcast, citizens from different states explain their struggles with the recent inflation crisis. Kaitlyn (no last name given) from Richmond Virginia, states “I was in the food industry serving and bartending for about seven years. [And] Now I am in a 9-5 this last year, and I’m making the most money I’ve ever made. Yet it feels like I am not given the cost increase for food and overall living.” Based on Kaitlyn’s statement, while not explicitly said, the only source of income in their household is coming from Kaitlyn. Yet, with only one mouth to feed, their salary is still not enough to live in this economy. The next testimonial coming from Austin Texas, Chris, (no last name given) states, “Got three kids, work about 60 hours a week, unfortunately it’s not enough now to pay our bills. Seems like we’re becoming an economy where we need at least 2 jobs just to make it. So I am looking for part time work for about 20-25 a week just so that I can take care of my family.” A parent from Oxford Massachusetts, Kate Lovely, states how they feel about having a child in the United States. “With inflation my family is having a very hard time even though we are considered [decided like] middle class. We are definitely picking and choosing which bills to pay based on [you know] who will give us more time. We have a three year old son. It definitely feels as though we are being punished for having children in this country. Our daycare bill is as much as our mortgage cost.” In Chris and Kate’s situation, they both have a family to feed. In Kate’s situation it’s specifically stated that they feel as though they are being punished for having a child in this country. Their daycare bill costs nearly as much as their mortgage payment. In Chris’ situation, while not clearly said, we can infer that Chris is taking a toll on themselves just to keep their family afloat. Already working 60 hours a week and needing to add 20-25 hours on top of that. No parent should need to go through that to support their family. Families in this situation need governmental assistance which should already be implemented but is not. Given the statements above, we get a feel of how inflation is affecting the citizens of America. There are programs that offer nutrition assistance, such as WIC or FoodShare, but this is still not enough. Raising children costs a lot of money and time. But how can parents possibly afford to give time and money when they have to pick up extra hours just to make ends meet? Or practically having to pay their mortgage twice to keep your child(ren) in a safe place while you’re away? You can’t. 

America’s capitalist economy is key to our infrastructure but creating governmental programs to aid those in need is highly achievable. Setting regulations on companies that own near monopolies, finding and fixing the loopholes in our economy to disengage the corruption. Limiting what prices companies can gouge for personal gain. Increase federal wages so those in the lower class have enough income to live. Create more jobs which provide great benefits and pay. Control the housing industry, make purchasing a livable and safe home more affordable. Lower interest rates so those who need loans don’t risk going into debt. Make healthcare more accessible for those who cannot afford it. “Do not fear the debt and believe in the payout.” That’s a part of the American dream. But the government does not allow people to live without having that fear.

Whether you’re a college student extending your knowledge further, or you have a family trying to crawl out of the depths of poverty, the American socioeconomic system disables the ability for citizens to escape the grips of poverty. Different factors play a role in each individual’s ability to “escape” or “win”. Immigrant children are raised from nearly nothing. They come to America with nothing. Their parents risked everything. Everything and anything to give their children a chance. A chance to achieve this dream, a dream in which you can grow in social class and wealth. A dream where you can start from nothing and become whatever or whoever you want. However, coming here and starting with nothing causes a generational prison. A prison that traps and affects future generations locking them into poverty. A curse that future generations have to break. A curse that affects families for generations. College students who come from these families are at a disadvantage, do they have enough money for clothing, books?, even food? Do they have enough funds for college? Or do they have to worry about the curse set upon them. In modern day, larger families struggle to fund their bills or services. Even to the point of feeling like they’re punished for having children. Or to the point of working over 60 hours a week just to have enough income for a family of four. Thus proving that the American Dream is over glorified.