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Perspectives

Publication Date

5-20-2021

Abstract

Do White and Black Americans equally believe in the American Dream? Does the American Dream offer hope for Black Americans to hold on to, or has racial oppression made the dream feel out of reach? Since such ideas, like the promise of social mobility offered by freedom, motivate and inform economic, social, and political beliefs, understanding how such narratives function is of critical need. In this study, I used the 2012 Outlook on Life Survey (N=2,294) to analyze the differences in attitudes about the American Dream between Black and White populations in the United States. I analyzed data about how far along the American Dream participants will progress, how hard it will be for them to have a financially secure retirement, and how hard it will be for them to do better than their parents. I hypothesized that Black participants would be more pessimistic about the American Dream and would view that it is harder for them to do better than their parents based on previous studies about institutional, cultural, and internalized racism. My findings did not support my hypotheses. I found no significant differences in Black and White attitudes about American Dream progression and found that Black participants were more likely to report that it would be easier for them to do better than their parents and to have a financially secure retirement. My findings suggest that Americans generally feel similarly about the American Dream, despite racial differences.

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