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The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States of Americamarker in which democratic ideals are perceived as a promise of prosperity for its people. In the American Dream, first expressed by James Truslow Adams in 1931, citizens of every rank feel that they can achieve a "better, richer, and happier life." The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence which states that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The "American Dream" has been credited with helping to build a cohesive American experience but has also been blamed for overinflated expectations. The presence of the American Dream has not historically helped the majority of minority race and lower class American citizens to gain a greater degree of social equality and influence. Instead, the American wealth structure has often been observed to sustain class differences in which well-positioned groups continue to be advantaged.

In common parlance, the term American Dream is often used as a synonym for home ownership since homes have historically been seen as status symbols separating the middle classes and the poor. This usage, though, while common, is generally considered a very specific use of a more general term.


Since the early 19th century, the United States has regarded and promoted itself as a beacon of liberty and prosperity achieved through a combination of the philosophical and ethical principles propounded by its founders and implemented in their most perfect form. In tandem with this is its natural wealth and bounty within the New World.

The meaning of the 'American Dream' has evolved over the course of American history. While historically traced to the New World mystique — the availability of land and the continuing American expansion—the ethos today simply indicates the ability, through participation in the resonant society and culture of the United States, to bring prosperity to oneself.

According to the dream, this includes the opportunity for one's children to grow up and receive an American education and its consequent career opportunities. It is the opportunity to make individual choices without the restrictions of class, caste, religion, race, or ethnic group.

According to researcher Tommi Uschanov, "american dream" actually characterizes better European societies in which people who born to lower social classes are - according to statistical data - more likely to reach upper social classes during their lives than in the United States.


Historian and writer James Truslow Adams coined the phrase "American Dream" in his 1931 book Epic of America:

He also wrote:

Later 20th and 21st centuries

In recent years, the concept of the American Dream as a national ideal has been studied by various organizations. The conclusions of these studies indicate that during the 1990s to the 2000s, an increasing number of people confess to having lost faith in the American Dream.

Cultural references

Some authors have written to critique or ridicule the concept, such as John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Sinclair Lewis in Babbitt satirized 20th-century materialism and conformity. Hunter S. Thompson's depicted in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey Into the Heart of the American Dream a dark view of the search for the American Dream in the early 1970s after the collapse of the counter-culture movement; a vision of the cynical politics of Richard Nixon, violence, avarice, ignorance, vicious patriotism and personal alienation, endemic to American society.

Many films explore the topic of the American Dream. One such film is 1969's Easy Rider, in which characters make a pilgrimage in search of "the true America."

American comedian George Carlin joked that "it's called the American Dream 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it."

Casting Crowns have a song entitled "American Dream" on their first album, expressing the negative effects on family life of the pursuit of material wealth and power.

In the book Watchmen, the American Dream is referenced to when the Comedian and Nite Owl are clearing the streets of protestors against the Cold War. After the chaos and an argument with the Comedian, a somewhat depressed Nite Owl asks, "But this country's disintregrating. What happened to America? What happened to the American dream?" The Comedian, standing among the ruins of the riots while brandishing his shotgun, says, "It came true. You're looking at it."

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream named a new flavor of ice cream in honor of comedian Stephen Colbert in 2007 called "Americone Dream," a humorous reference to the extremely patriotic character Colbert plays on The Colbert Report.

In an episode of NCIS(Outlaws and In-laws) Tony refers to himself as the American Dream. The episode aired in November 2009.

See also


  1. Cullen, 2004, p. 6.
  2. Vanity Fair, April 2009. Rethinking the American Dream. Retrieved on June 20, 2009.
  3. The Declaration of Independence. Retrieved on June 20, 2009.
  4. Greider, William. The Nation, May 6, 2009. The Future of the American Dream, Retrieved on June 20, 2009.
  5. Johnson, 2006, pp. 6–10. "The crucial point is not that inequalities exist, but that they are being perpetuated in recurrent patterns—they are not always the result of individual success or failure, nor are they randomly distributed throughout the population. In the contemporary United States, the structure of wealth systematically transmits race and class inequalities through generations despite deep-rooted belief otherwise."
  6. Fisher, Sarah Young; Shelly, Susan: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s, Penguin Group, 2009, pg. 264
  7. Book: "Mikä Vasemmistoa Vaivaa?", Author: osman kamara

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