Conducts "American Dream" Study that Finds Americans Value Financial Stability Over Materialism

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A new survey exploring today’s definition of the American Dream, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of, finds that Americans are striving for financial stability over material items.

A new survey conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by shines light on the evolving meaning of the American Dream and the financial risks people are willing to take in pursuit of their dreams. The study was conducted online between September 2 and 4 and polled more than 2,000 adults ages 18 and older.

94% of Americans say they believe there is such a thing as the American Dream. While eight in 10 (80%) Americans say that homeownership is part of the American Dream, the study shows Americans also value opportunities as well as material things: 74% of Americans say the American Dream includes having the financial ability to retire, 63% point to living debt-free, 51% say it includes getting a college education, and 34% say it includes getting promoted to a higher ranking position.

“Sadly, the recession made aspirational dreams even more difficult to achieve,” said Scott Smith, president of “Before you can live debt free, you have to pay off your debts, and the slow economic recovery may not support that for many.”

While most Americans (68%) live with debt – mortgages, car loans, credit card bills – 72% of Americans say they still make it a point to pay their bills on time. However, it seems this goal may be less of a priority to men than women, as men are twice as likely as women to say that it’s OK to be late on payments every once in a while (6% vs. 3%).

In fact, men are twice as likely to take another financial risk, with 14% proclaiming that they buy what they want when they want since they have their credit cards, compared to only 7% of women. Survey results suggest that this may be a result from women’s greater fear of bankruptcy, as 76% would consider that to be a financial disaster, compared to 68% of men. Yet somehow, men are still more likely to say they already have enough money to retire than women (30% vs. 24%).

“This study certainly refutes old gender stereotypes that peg women as the irresponsible ones,” Smith added. “If anything, these results indicate men to be far more daring, and even frivolous, with their spending than their female counterparts.”

Other highlights from the survey include:

40% of Americans say they always pay more than the minimum on credit card debt.
27% of Americans with consumer debt say they pay only their minimum monthly payments.
Despite financial downturns and international insecurity, dreams do continue to exist through times of hardship as only 6% of the American population say there is no such thing as an American Dream.
Men are more likely than women to say they have been promoted to higher ranking positions in their career (40% vs. 29%, respectively).
“While American consumers generally say they want to become debt free, too many of them aren’t taking concrete steps to make that happen,” Smith added. “Paying only the monthly minimums may create a lifetime of debt instead.”

For all survey findings, visit:


Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States between September 2nd and 4th, 2014 among 2,017 adults (aged 18 and over) by Harris Poll on behalf of Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who previously agreed to participate. The data has been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, contact Celeste Edmunds at media(at)creditrepair(dot)com.


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About The Harris Poll

Over the last 5 decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Contact us at ConsumerInsightsNAInfo(at)nielsen(dot)com for more information.

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Celeste Edmunds, PR Coordinator
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