In the 1600s, the Puritans came to America to escape religious persecution. In the 21st century, Syrian refugees struggle to escape the war torn conditions from the Syrian Civil War. Across the globe, people have left their homelands in order to pursue a better life. These global citizens have chosen the United States as their haven to support their dreams of wealth because our country is the symbol of the “land of opportunity” as a result of the American Dream. The American Dream is the belief that anyone can achieve success through hard work, regardless of their race, origin, physical condition or other factors that may hinder one’s journey to success, because equal opportunities are presented to all people. Historically, the American Dream allowed anyone who worked hard an equal opportunity for economic stability and upward social mobility. Yet in the 21st century, the American Dream is no longer viable because of fewer opportunities for lower social and economic classes, creating more rigid class lines.
The American Dream’s main promise is the accumulation of wealth as a result of determination and hard work in order to support oneself and their family. In fact, Dalmia argues Americans are wealthy both in terms of tangible and intangible wealth. Using a 2005 World Bank study, she argues that tangible wealth (“raw resources and infrastructure”) and intangible wealth (“effective government, secure property rights, and a functioning judiciary”) automatically deposit $418,000 worth of benefits for each America. On the other hand, she states that competing developing countries such as China and India rest at $4208 and $3,738, respectively. Americans earn these benefits by working hard at their jobs and by paying their taxes to a well-established government. Without having to worry about issues such as corruption within the government, poor facilities or predetermined caste structures found in developing countries, workers can focus on providing “a roof overhead, food, clothes and a few amenities” or “a lifestyle rich in material goods” depending on their work ethic. The belief that one’s hard work will eventually be fruitful is reassuring for anyone that has struggled financially, which makes the American Dream attainable.
Furthermore, Americans strive for upward social mobility to move away from the socioeconomic oppression that comes from being of a lower class. For many, they or their ancestors sought after the American Dream with close to nothing to move away from poverty. These people sought after the American Dream hoping that their children would be better off socially and economically. They did not want their children to face homelessness, famine or racism as they did. In order to prepare their children for upward social mobility, opportunities such as education continue to be crucial to higher earnings in the workforce and allow lower classes to climb into higher income brackets. Because of the ample opportunities presented to the workforce, some believe that America’s "shared" upward mobility throughout all social classes prevents the formation of “rigid class lines."
However, according to a survey conducted in 1978, the prime period of upward mobility in America was “during the first thirty years… after World War II." The post-World War II era saw a rise in the number of opportunities for the workforce, but these opportunities did not continue to be available in the 21st century. In fact, Krugman cites Business Week, which states, “The proliferation of dead-end, low-wage jobs and the disappearance of jobs that provide entry to the middle class” has prevented the middle class of the 21st century from penetrating higher income levels. Americans are forced to maintain jobs that do not sharpen their skills nor offer merit-based promotions. As a result, modern Americans are less likely to move out of their "predetermined" economic and social class compared to their ancestors, making class lines more rigid.
The American Dream is the optimistic view of the workforce for immigrants and other Americans that peaked in the post-World War II era. The idea thrives on the principles of hard work and equal opportunity to provide material wealth and financial success. The American Dream fails to provide the same fruits of labor for modern Americans as it did during the 20th century because there are fewer opportunities for people of lower socioeconomic levels. Although the American Dream continues to attract refugees and other immigrants, the future refugees, immigrants and citizens will surely be disappointed in the quality of opportunities compared to those of earlier Americans.