A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll reveals 69% of Americans believe the American Dream, once a beacon of hope and aspiration, no longer holds true. The cornerstones of this dream, characterized by the opportunity for homeownership, family life, financial security, and upward mobility, seem elusive to many. It’s too often overshadowed by economic uncertainties and social stratification, particularly for Millennials.

Voices from across the political spectrum lament the erosion of upward mobility, decry the “injustices” of capitalism, and mourn the emergence of what some are likening to a modern caste system. 

For this generation, witnessing the fallout of the 2008 Great Recession, the burden of mounting student debt, and the specter of unattainable homeownership has cast a pall over their prospects. It’s a grim reality compounded by a sluggish wage recovery in the decade following the 2008 crash, further perpetuating the narrative of a dream deferred.

Yet, amidst the prevailing gloom, glimmers of hope emerge from the annals of economic data, painting a more nuanced picture of the American Dream’s resilience. Contrary to the doomsday prophecies, evidence suggests that, while hindered, the dream is alive.

Since 1990, inflation-adjusted average hourly wages have surged by at least 20%, a testament to the enduring spirit of economic progress. Despite disruptions in specific sectors, well-paid job growth remains robust, with most individuals in their 40s outpacing their parents’ income trends.

Moreover, recent milestones, such as the FDA’s approval of the first Alzheimer’s treatment and the continued long-term increase in life expectancy, underscore the nation’s strides in enhancing overall well-being. Though often overshadowed by doom-laden narratives, these indicators serve as beacons of hope.

Rapidly unfolding technological advancements have democratized access to information and opportunities, leveling the playing field for aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators. The rise of e-commerce platforms and remote work arrangements has opened new avenues for economic participation, empowering individuals to pursue their dreams with unprecedented flexibility and autonomy.

For those who remain skeptical, look no further than to the increasing annual immigration of people passing across our borders to take hold of opportunity. In a nation shaped by waves of immigration and cultural exchange, diversity is not just a buzzword—it’s a source of strength and dynamism. Whether fleeing political persecution, seeking economic opportunity, or simply yearning for a fresh start, immigrants are drawn to America by the promise of a better tomorrow. 

Still, these triumphs do not absolve valid criticisms. 

Homeownership remains increasingly difficult to attain for many, making what some consider part of the American dream out of reach. Higher education, what’s long been a way to earn more income, has become unaffordable for many people and the quality of education for a job after college has been declining precipitously, reducing the ability and need for a college degree. 

Moreover, inflation, fueled by lax monetary policies to fund excessive government spending, continues to erode consumers’ purchasing power, exacerbating the financial burdens of everyday Americans. In an environment where living costs have been soaring and higher education, a crucial component of achieving upward economic mobility, remains out of the reach of many; the path up the ladder can be fraught with many obstacles. 

As with any economic issue, more free market dynamism provides a better path forward. Each person’s unique American dream is far from dead, but its pulse has been weakened by big-government policies that inhibit voluntary exchange and human flourishing. 

By dismantling regulatory barriers and curbing government largesse through fiscal and monetary rules, we can empower individuals in the private sector over politicians and bureaucrats in government to innovate and thrive, fostering an environment where one’s American dream transcends rhetoric and becomes a tangible reality.

As we navigate the complexities of today, we must recognize that the American dream is not a static ideal but a dynamic path for each person. By embracing innovation and championing economic freedom with limited government, we can unleash the full potential of an American dream for each person. This will help ensure our master resource is the very people who will thrive in a system of free-market capitalism now and for generations to come. 


Vance Ginn, Ph.D., is founder and president of Ginn Economic Consulting, LLC and an Associate Research Fellow with AIER. He is chief economist at Pelican Institute for Public Policy and senior fellow at Americans for Tax Reform. He previously served as the associate director for economic policy of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, 2019-20.