American Dream no Longer Relevant According to New Study

During the late 1800’s Horatio Alger wrote over 100 books that helped articulate to the world his view of the American Dream. In his books, the poor were able to rise from poverty and achieve incredible wealth through hard work, creativity and mentoring. To many, the American Dream was the reason why so many immigrants in the mid-1800’s risked life and limb to reach America’s shores. Many adherents to Alger’s view believe the American Dream is one of the reasons America has the largest economy in the world at $15.3 trillion. Many believe it is the reason why America has so many billionaires (422 vs China 66, Russia 65, Germany 57 and India 52).

Thanks to Mr. Alger many Americans, rich or poor, agreed on one thing – the American Dream represented unlimited opportunity and the ability to rise from abject poverty to wealth in one or more generations.

But not any more. The definition of the American Dream is changing. Based on a study by the Rich Habits Institute there are differences the size of the Grand Canyon in the way the rich and the poor view the American Dream. Here are some examples from the study:

  • 87% of the poor believe unlimited opportunity is no longer possible in America. 98% of the wealthy believe unlimited opportunity still exists in America
  • 79% of the poor believe government should do more to help people financially. 91% of the wealthy believe the government does too much to help people financially
  • 80% of the poor believe unlimited wealth is not what the American Dream is about. 94% of the wealthy believe the opportunity for unlimited wealth is fundamental to the American Dream
  • 51% of the poor believe the American Dream is about owning a home. 95% of the wealthy believe the American Dream means much more than home ownership
  • 52% of the poor believe it is more important to live now and not put things off. 72% of the wealthy believe a key to wealth is delayed gratification
  • 79% of the poor believe wealth comes from random good luck. Just 8% of the wealthy share this view
  • 13% of the poor believed they would be financially successful in life. 43% of the wealthy believed they would be financially successful in life
  • 82% of the poor believe they are not responsible for their financial situation. 70% of the wealthy believe they are responsible for their financial situation.
  • 90% of the poor believe most wealthy people inherit their wealth. Only 5% of the wealthy share this view
  • 5% of the poor believe wealthy people are good, honest, hardworking people. 78% of the wealthy share this view
  • 3% of the poor consider the wealthy frugal. 60% of the wealthy consider wealthy people to be frugal
  • 90% of the poor consider wealthy people greedy. Just 3% of the wealthy share this view
  • 87% of the poor believe the wealthy should pay more tax. 97% of the wealthy believe they pay too much tax
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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. So many powerful statements here!

    Belief is the foundation, I would say, to success. Personal transformation starts with belief, adopting sound principles, and putting into action good habits. So the formula could simply be expressed as Faith + Action + Consistency = Success

    As I digest these data points, I am reminded of the old story of the two fishermen. Both were unable to catch fish for days so money was tight and they were hungry. One fisherman was given a bountiful catch which he benefited from for weeks. The other was taught the secrets of fishing and experienced abundance the rest of his life.

    The abundance mentality is empowering. When you believe there is hope and opportunity regardless of adversity and circumstances, you will see positive things and reap positive things at every turn. There is ni doubt some are met with more bad luck than others but those with the right mindset use bad luck to innovate and persevere. They grow stronger and smarter, rather than making more excuses.

    I also feel the material definition of wealth is what cripples so many and breeds poverty habits. Like you say in your book, it’s about living within your means and delaying gratification now for better things later. I work hard to teach my family these principles. I exercise “not now” often for passing whims and unnecessary things. My kids may not like it much now but one day they will see it paved the way to a better, more sustainable future for everyone.

    Thanks for everything, Tom!

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