The concept of the American Dream has powered the aspirations of Americans for generations. People are forever redefining and analyzing the concept, yet with each attempt to clarify the American Dream it becomes more incoherent. As time proceeds, it is safe to say that everyone has a different dream; thus, making the American Dream concept indefinable. Every generation believes that their children would have more access to more than they had. Many people are raised with the expectations that the material part of the dream will be achievable. Americans are redefining what it means to be better off. The American Dream is adapting to the mindsets of new generations, adjusting to societal and economical changes and departing from the historical definition it once was.
The concept of the American Dream, once based upon homeownership, is now based on becoming debt-free. During the Great Recession, five million people lost their homes. The value of residential real estate fell by trillions of dollars. The American Dream of homeownership faded. In his article “The New American Dream: It’s Not What You Think,” Adam Levin, Co-founder of Credit.com, highlights how “...the failure to own a home is generally not a source of stress in the same way that drowning in debt and the inability to retire are.” Levin’s assertion emphasizes the importance of debt to consumers and the role it plays in shaping the ideology of the American Dream of the white picket fence. The American Dream acclimates to new generations by reflecting how their outlook on what it means to be better off.
As a result of lowered standards of living expectations, the American Dream shifted from opportunity-based to security-based. How people interpret their American Dream depends on what they believe is more important. In the Atlantic’s “The American Dream: Personal Optimists, National Pessimists,” Don Baer and Mark Penn accentuate how Americans prioritize flexibility and economic security more than marriage and having children. Clearly, Americans favor the idea of living comfortably over being affluent
As economic hardships and societal changes occurred, the definition adjusted once again. The notion of the American Dream, which can be traced back to our Founding Fathers, at first stressed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The historical context of the American Dream transformed the simple concept into a complex ideology. After the Great Depression, homeownership became Americans’ life goal. In his article “The New American Dream: It’s Not What You Think,” Adam Levin details how his survey depicts the change in what the American Dream is. He states, “...in the past, the hallmarks of the Dream were a white picket fence and a couple of children, now just over one in four respondents names ‘owning a nice home’ as the most important ingredient of the American Dream.” The American Dream, which was once collectively defined as one thing, is now ambiguous.
The American Dream has not withered, it only changed. America once shared a similar concept on what exactly the American Dream is. As time went on, we became a country of individuals, redefining and personalizing the American Dream. The American Dream correlates with the notion of individualism. This concept encourages people to achieve their dream whether it be to own a house with a white picket fence, retire by the age of 65 or become financial stable. The American Dream should not be redefined because of the fact that it cannot be defined.