Rethinking the American Dream

Nearly five months after we published our “American Dream in the Balance study, Vanity Fair’s David Kamp explores how the Dream has evolved. With the threat or reality of unemployment, foreclosed homes and dwindling investments closing in around us, Americans are recalibrating.

Consider how the Dream looked before the brunt of the recession hit: “Back in the day, the American Dream was as simple as coming to America to find a home, get a job and live out your life. Now that is not good enough,” a 20-year-old Hispanic male told us in the quantitative study JWT conducted several weeks before the U.S. presidential election. “Now you want to be famous, rich, glorious and renowned all over the world. In the past, ‘dead end job’ was a term that didn’t exist. Any job meant money to feed your family and pay your taxes. Now working at any old job is pretty much the same as being dead. The world does not know who you are, nor does it care who you are.”

Today, however, that job doesn’t seem so dead-end after all. For a while to come, most consumers and many businesses will be primarily focused on basic priorities—surviving and making it through the crisis without too much damage. Along with leaders at every level, brands can play a part in safeguarding and stewarding people’s bigger, longer-term aspirations—helping them prepare for a more secure future and inspiring them to work toward it. We make a case for this in our trendletter “Rethinking Aspirations,” which can be downloaded from our Trends and Research section, along with “American Dream in the Balance.”

Below is a video we produced just before the U.S. election as a complement to our research.

2 Responses to “Rethinking the American Dream”


  • A real interesting read Ann. I am curious about what the rest of the world thinks about the American dream. It is possible that while the dream is coming apart in America it has many believers and followers in several parts of the world.

  • Thanks Kamini. I think the American Dream still holds some allure for people outside of the States, though it has lost some of its luster over the past decade or so. Obama has been well-received by many in the international community, so i think he’ll do much to restore the Dream’s image at home and abroad.

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