Nearly Half of Young Americans Believe the American Dream is Dead for Them. When November IOP polling asked 18- to 29- year-olds if the “American Dream is alive or dead” for them personally, respondents were nearly evenly split (49%: “alive;” 48%: “dead”). While no significant difference was found based on race or ethnicity (whites – 49% said “alive;” African-Americans – 44% said “alive;” Hispanics – 52% said “alive”), respondents’ level of education did play a role. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) college graduates said the American Dream was alive for them personally, compared to only 42% of those not in college/never enrolled in college saying the same. Additionally, a significant majority of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters said they believed the American dream was “dead” (Trump voters – 61%: American Dream “dead,” 39%: “alive;” Sanders voters – 56%: American Dream “dead,” 44%: “alive”).At The Washington Post, Philip Bump cites Pew data on the decline of the middle class.
No wonder, then, that young Americans are skeptical of their ability to get ahead. Pew's data also shows that the age range looked at in the Harvard IoP survey saw the biggest drop in income status since 1971, with the biggest gain of any demographic group going to those 65 and over.
Within that American dream data was a noticeable split. Those with a college degree thought that the American dream was alive and well at a rate 16 percentage points higher than those who weren't in college or who had never attended. Non-college-graduates also saw broad decreases in income in Pew's analysis, with the research firm writing that "[t]hose Americans without a college degree stand out as experiencing a substantial loss in economic status."
We've known for some time that people with college degrees have done better in recent years. But two threats still exist. The first is student loan debt, which continues to be a massive burden to recent college graduates. The second is wage stagnation. In analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, for example, wages for young college graduates have been dropping since the year 2000. The trend is more widespread and older than that, but this number certainly might make a new graduate pessimistic.