The American Dream. That is the topic of NPR’s newest series. All summer reporters will be talking to people from various professions, backgrounds and locations to ask for their thoughts on the American Dream and if it is still attainable. At one-point I was certain that when people said “American Dream,” they were referring to the husband, wife, 2.5 kids and a white picket fence imagery. As I got older I associated it more with finances. Then I just went with “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” because I wasn’t sure what the dream was. Despite my lack of a definition, I was still excited to learn about the series and to learn how other people defined it.

NPR Correspondent Ari Shapiro is one of the reports on the project and contributed this info on the series’ working definition:

Well, there are obviously many different definitions and we’ll try to explore the breadth of them over the course of the summer. But as a good starting point, pollsters ask two basic definitions. On the individual, they ask: Do you believe that success is within you own power or due to factors beyond your control? And then, on a collective level, they ask: Do you believe that the next generation will have a better life than the previous generation.

Those two measures sort of get at this theme that is deeply, deeply rooted in American ideology. And what’s interesting is that today some polls show that while majorities of Americans still believe in these two things, the majorities are much smaller than they once were.

How do you define the American Dream? What does it mean to your life?

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  • AJ

    I think people can have a good life, if they stop with this foolishness (middle America)
    Folks aren’t ready to cast out their idea of the “American Dream”
    Things have changed and you need to plan accordingly.

  • Jazzy Girl

    Every generation describes the American Dream differently. I find that my parents were satisfied with the marriage, the children, the house. If the marriage worked, the children behaved, and the house was suited for a family of four, then it was all good. On the other hand, the Gen Xers and Millennials are not so much sold on the idea. We have more options and while that can be a great thing, it can be detrimental, too. I think with more options we find no reason to value the little things and never seem to be satisfied because we see more and we want more. I read it somewhere, a year or so ago, that Americans are among the most unhappiest people. We got too much going on. I can’t remember the last time I met someone who was content with where they were in life– that’s not good.

  • apple

    my american dream was to get a job i like and have my own place to stay.. who knew that would be so difficult in america

  • Singlequeen

    The american dream for me is:

    To have fulfilling work that allows me to live on my own and pay my own bills.

    To have my work valued instead of denigrated because it is not one of the “it jobs”

    To have some financial room to enjoy some of life luxuries, i.e. a vacation now and then

    To be able to provide a good quality of life for my children when I become married and have them.

    My definition seems so simple but it is difficult in this day and age.