Lifestory Research Asks, "Is the American Dream Dead?" For the first time in 80 years, majority answers, “Yes”

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A survey of more than 9,000 respondents shows that the majority no longer believe in the American Dream of home ownership and being wealthier than their parents' generation.

For the first time in the last 80 years, the majority of those surveyed do not believe their children's generation will do better than their own.

Lifestory Research has published the inaugural issue of its groundbreaking American Dream study, providing detailed analysis and consumer attitudes among more than 9,000 respondents. The results portend major changes for America and her economy, as consumers completely abandon spending and wealth-building patterns – including homeownership – that have spanned generations.

According to survey results, the traditional notion of the “American Dream” received a pummeling at the hands of the Great Recession. Researchers were astonished to learn that for the first time in the last 80 years, the majority of those surveyed do not believe their children’s generation will do better than their own.

This sentiment spans all age ranges and the sample size is large enough for a1 percent+- margin of error with 95 percent accuracy. “The results are definitive and represent an extraordinary departure from the past,” said Eric Snider, Lifestory’s chief research officer. “Businesses servicing the American consumer would be well-served to take notice, as it’s critical that they change with the consumer. Those lagging behind will be left behind.”

Historically, monumental changes in the consumer psyche have occurred following major financial upheavals. Study authors, suspecting change was in the offing following the recent economic downturn, were interested to gauge consumer sentiment as the country emerged from the last five years of uncertainty.

Below is a sampling of key survey findings:

-The majority of Americans think that the American Dream is dead.

The American Dream is not alive and well to 53.3 percent of the American consumer marketplace. When research participants were asked if they agree or disagree with the statement “People are too pessimistic over the long term, the American Dream is alive and well,” Lifestory Research found that more people disagreed with this statement than those who agreed.

Lifestory Research also found that the response to this question varied by age group. Younger consumers were more likely to believe the American Dream is alive and well, whereas older consumers were much less likely to agree to this belief.

-The future of home ownership is eclipsed with pessimism.

An outcome of consumers’ beliefs concerning the American Dream is a change in homeownership. When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “the future is bright and more Americans will be given the chance to own a home”, most consumers disagreed. Instead, a minority of consumers (42.1 percent) believed that more Americans will get the chance to own a home. Lifestory Research found that this view progressively decreased with the age of a participant. While the majority of the younger consumers believe that home ownership is likely for most, the consumers over the age of 50 were much less optimistic, with only 34 percent believing homeownership would thrive in the future.

-Future generations will be worse off.

Consumers also conveyed through their responses that they do not think that future generations will be better off than past generations. For more than a century, the American Dream has been defined in part with the belief that each new generation will be more successful than their parents’ generation. In this study by Lifestory Research, 57.5 percent of consumers indicated that they agreed that “No matter how much I’m able to realistically earn in the future, I don’t think I or my family will be as well off, economically, as the previous generation.”

-Americans have lost all confidence in the integrity of the financial system.

Inferred in much of the thinking by Lifestory Research is that the faltering financial markets that occurred in 2008 have caused much of the change in the American Dream mindset. Lifestory Research contends that it was this crisis event that produced psychological strife on a societal level. In turn, this condition caused many Americans to question the system itself, as well as the security of the future. Lifestory Research found that the vast majority of consumers indicated that they have lost all confidence in the integrity of the financial system that made America great (67.9 percent).

-I believe that the American Way of Life is likely to be surpassed by China during my lifetime.

When confidence in the American Dream decreases, confidence in other super powers increases. Lifestory Research found that 56.4 percent of American consumers believe that China will surpass the American Way of Life during their lifetime.

Summary Report

For a copy of the summary report, see

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About Lifestory Research

Lifestory Research is a leading market research firm, providing insight through cutting-edge quantitative and qualitative research, set within the context of life. Lifestory Research was founded by Dr. Eric Snider who holds a Ph.D. in Communication and Social Psychology, with special emphasis in the study of influence and persuasion. Lifestory’s client base spans Private Education, Real Estate, Energy, Financial Services, Medical Providers and Not-for-Profits.

No advertising or other promotional use can be made of the information in this release without the express prior written consent of Lifestory Research.

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