Losing the American dream

October 6, 2008 5:27:10 PM PDT
Every day brings new jitters about the state of the economy. Many people are already feeling the pinch.

Adding to the uncertainty is the fear that for the first time in decades the American dream itself could be at stake.

In the 1950s, the dream was simple -- a nice home with a white picket fence.

It seemed so attainable then. Today, for many, that dream is out of reach.

"The perception is clearly negative. Americans are clearly anxious about their economic prospects and their prospects for their children at levels that we haven't seen in 50 years," said John Morton of Pew Charitable Trusts.

Since 1999 median family income has declined slightly even though many of people are working longer hours to keep pace.

More startling, between 1974 and 2004 the median income for a man in his 30's fell 12 percent. Still, Americans continued to believe in the dream. Many purchased homes they couldn't afford --- some sold to them by unscrupulous lenders.

Then, the housing boom went bust and the country woke up to a reality that the dream for a better life may have gone bust, too.

Americans are also angry at Wall Street.

The wage gap between rich and poor is bigger than ever - and, many in the middle class no longer feel if you work hard enough, you can have it all.

"If the perception begins to be quite negative, and if the reality begins to turn in that direction, we enter a new form of people trying to figure out how they fit into that American dream," said Morton.

The average price of a house in the 1950's was between 10 and 15-thousand dollars.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think the American dream is still attainable? Click here to answer.

Click here for more New York and Tri-State News

Report a typo || Send a story idea || Send news photos/videos