American Dream vs. Reality Throughout History

Narrowed Focus: The concept of the American dream held by many citizens in the United States has become a dream.

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Thesis Statement: Although many American citizens continue to hold on the American dream and its role in promoting upward economic and social mobility, the existing facts reveal that the conception remains an illusion that the government should address using evidence-based programs and policies.


The American dream became a powerful driving force in the United States from the 1930s. Within the next few decades, the concept encouraged many citizens to work hard. The objective was for them to achieve whatever they wanted. This became a national identity whereby many people undertook numerous measures to record noticeable economic or social mobility. Political leaders and psychologists used the notion to encourage their followers to embrace the most appropriate activities and initiatives to achieve their potential. Unfortunately, many American citizens continue to grapple with numerous challenges and issues. They have also been unable to achieve their aims. The paper presented below explains why the idea of the American dream is nothing but an illusion.

The American Dream: A Dream

The idea behind the American dream was to establish a nation that supported all people equality and empowered them to achieve their potential. Before the year 1964, many societies believed that the country had the right resources, opportunities, and policies that can support such a vision. All citizens were encouraged to work hard, pursue new objectives, and take their children to the best schools. This kind of development encouraged many citizens in the country and across the globe to acknowledge that America was indeed a land of immense opportunities (“Academic Freedom”). The message was that those who were ambitious, courageous, and productive would achieve great things for themselves and their respective families.

The experiences and events of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) presented new realities to every American citizen. It was quite clear that the United States faced the major challenge of racial discrimination. Such a problem made it impossible for many victims to realize the dream of equality. This means that they did not have access to better jobs, sustainable medical services, or quality education.

These predicaments would eventually force African Americans and other minority groups to challenge the concept of the American dream by engaging in nonviolent protests (“Academic Freedom”). The reality would be that the increasing levels of justice and inequality in the United States led to reduced social mobility rates.

From the 1960s, several achievements have been recorded in the United States. For example, many corporations and industries continue to dominate the global market by inventing and presenting superior technologies to meet the needs of different customers. New policies and laws have emerged to challenge a wide range of misbehaviors, including inequality in working environments, gender disparity, ineffective social welfare programs, and disempowerment of the elderly and minority groups. The vision of ensuring that America remains the land of diverse opportunities is something that has continued to inform such ideas or laws (Gescinska 47). However, the outstanding fact is that the number of citizens who have been unable to get closer to this reality has continued to rise.

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The issue of poverty is the first example to support this assertion. The United States is one of the countries with the highest rates of poverty despite the fact that it is a wealthy democracy (“America’s Wealthy”). Most of the programs implemented to address this challenge have failed to deliver positive results. Citizens languishing in extreme poverty find it impossible to achieve inequality and pursue their objectives in life. The number of children living in poverty is quite high in this country (Gescinska 50). Such a challenge is a clear revelation that the government has done very little to transform the current situation.

The second area of focus is that of income inequality. Attributes such as standardized salaries and wages for all are capable of catalyzing a true conception of a national dream. The wave of globalization has created a scenario whereby the government has ignored the issue of inequality completely. The political decisions and choices many citizens make have led to superior policies that seek to support the interests of corporate America (“Academic Freedom”). Consequently, different citizens have been unable to get better jobs and pursue their economic goals.

Education is one of the catalysts of economic growth and development. Those who proposed the idea of the American dream believed that all people should be empowered and guided to acquire quality education. Such an achievement would have made it possible for all citizens to pursue their goals and engage in activities that would eventually transform their lives (“Academic Freedom”). The reality on the ground is that the government has failed to treat education as a powerful driver of new opportunities.

Many children are unable to access quality education since America’s learning institutions and colleges offer expensive academic programs or courses (“Academic Freedom”). Some state government has also failed to offer equal resources and educational opportunities to individuals who decide to study in religious-based institutions.

The concept of self-improvement appears to have taken the place of the American dream. Many people believe that this idea imposes responsibility in individuals to pursue their goals and work hard to emerge successful (Gescinska 50). However, this goal has become quite heavy or impossible for many people. Consequently, underprivileged individuals in the country have become physically or psychologically troubled. On the other hand, those who decide to focus on their goals will eventually ignore others, thereby resulting in increased levels of disparity. The rich have gone further to join the corporate world. Today, such businesses influence what people eat, drink, or think. They also influence political systems and support leaders who can protect their goals.

Due to the ineffectiveness of the current systems and policies, a small number of citizens in America control the largest percent of the country’s wealth. Statistics reveal that around 43 percent of wealth is managed by only one percent of the population (“America’s Wealthy”). This pattern might not change in the near future unless the government implements appropriate measures. A small number of citizens control many businesses and corporations in the country. These attributes, therefore, reveal that the American dream remains an illusion to the greatest number of citizens.


The current situation reveals that there is a need for the government to implement appropriate laws and policies to address the major predicaments many people in the United States face. The first important issue is to focus on the developments that have disoriented the importance and role of democracy in transforming the lives and experiences of all citizens.

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For instance, the idea of political leadership has followed a different path whereby corporations and entrepreneurs in the country tend to support parties that can protect their expectations or business interests. Consequently, the number of people incapable of realizing their potential in a land that was supposed to be of equal opportunities continues to swell (Cramer 45). The transformation of the country’s political system to support all people’s goals is the first thing to consider.

Secondly, new laws aimed at improving the quality and availability of education are needed in the United States. For example, the NAACP has been promoting a new policy to ensure that all boards of education across the country treated students with dignity, addressed their needs, and promoted programs that resonate with the needs of different communities (“America’s Wealthy”). The introduction of superior policies and programs will ensure that more citizens are able to achieve their potential and reap the fruits of the American dream. Additionally, superior programs aimed at improving the social welfare services, healthcare, transportation, and income levels will empower more people to achieve their goals.

The government should also introduce and support better laws to address the predicaments many citizens in the country encounter, including inequality, underrepresentation, unemployment, income discrimination, homelessness, and poverty.


The above discussion has revealed that the American dream is no longer a reality. Although the pioneers behind this concept encouraged all citizens to work hard and focus on their goals in life, subsequent governments failed to promote superior or evidence-based policies and strategies to support it. The introduction of new policies, laws, and programs will ensure that the challenges many citizens continue to face are addressed, thereby making it easier for them to lead better lives.

Works Cited

“Academic Freedom.” Editorial. Radical Teacher. 2012, p. 77.

“America’s Wealthy.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web.

Cramer, Reid. “The American Dream, Redeemed.” Washington Monthly. 2013, p. 45.

Gescinska, Alicja A. “Self-Improvement.” American Governance, edited by Stephen Schechter, Cengage Learning, 2016, pp. 47-50.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, May 31). American Dream vs. Reality Throughout History. Retrieved from

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"American Dream vs. Reality Throughout History." StudyCorgi, 31 May 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "American Dream vs. Reality Throughout History." May 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "American Dream vs. Reality Throughout History." May 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "American Dream vs. Reality Throughout History." May 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'American Dream vs. Reality Throughout History'. 31 May.

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