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Decoding the American Dream

Our Survey Revealed Real People's Experiences

By Alexandra Gekas for Woman's Day

The American Dream is based on the idea that with a dose of hard work and dedication, anyone can become successful, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic class. Although the belief is still alive, is it actually attainable? The recent recession, home foreclosures and high unemployment rates have undermined our nation's faith in this ideology. In fact, when we asked readers about the American Dream, 70.3 percent said it is less attainable now than in past years. Intrigued, we decided to delve a little deeper and discover exactly where you stand when it comes to the American Dream. (You can also see real quotes gathered from those who took our survey on what the American Dream means to them, today, here.)

Dollars and Cents

No surprise here: 75.6 percent of you said money is the biggest hurdle you face in achieving the American Dream, while only 15.6 percent of you said the problem is time, and 8.8 percent said it is education.

Enterprising Endeavors

With such legacies as Ford Motor Co., Microsoft and even Ben & Jerry's, the United States is known for its entrepreneurial spirit—but starting a business is a risky venture. That may be why you were torn on whether or not you'd take the plunge: 42.1 percent said you might launch your own company, 32.3 percent could never take the risk and 25.6 percent of you would risk it all to make it big.

Nest Egg

If one thing is crystal clear, it's that Americans aren't feeling very confident about their retirements. In fact, only 18.6 percent of you said you'd be able to retire early, whereas 61.7 percent said you wouldn't, and 19.7 percent weren't sure. ...Read More

Equal Rights

When it comes to issues of equality, it's a close divide. While there's no doubt that President Barack Obama played a role in 31.2 percent of you saying that anyone could become president of the United States despite race, class or gender, 34.5 percent of you said maybe any child could become president and 34.2 percent said only those born into money or certain social circles could get elected. In the same vein, 37.4 percent of you said America only offers equality to certain groups, classes and races, 37.7 percent said America does not offer equality to all, and 24.8 percent of you said that America does offer equality to all.

Does Hard Work Pay Off?

Talk about mixed feelings! When asked if you think that anyone who works hard can achieve the American Dream, 40.9 percent of you said yes and 41 percent said no. The remaining 18.1 percent of you were undecided.

Future Generations

While respondents to the American Dream survey were mostly women, their ages spanned from 20s to 60s and household income levels from $21,000 to more than $81,000. But the differences didn't stop there. You were torn about the fate of future generations: 47 percent said your grandchildren's chances for success will not be as good as your own, while 23.9 percent of you said their chances will be better and 29 percent of you were undecided.

Education Nation

One surprising commonality did crop up: Most of you think that higher education may not be the key to the success for future generations. A whopping 52.3 percent of you said that attending college is not essential to achieving the American Dream.

  • What does the American Dream mean to you?

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Decoding the American Dream
Our Survey Revealed Real People's Experiences
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