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Half of Millennials Believe the American Dream is Dead

December 11, 2015, 3:41 PM UTC
Participants in the Occupy Wall Street p
Participants in the Occupy Wall Street protest meet in a park on Broadway September 18, 2011 in New York. About 1,000 demonstrators gathered to protest the US capitalist system. AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Photgraph by Don Emmert — AFP via Getty Images

Millennials seem to be split on whether the American Dream is alive and kicking, or down and out.

In a recent survey among 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, 48% responded to the question “For you personally, is the idea of the American Dream alive or dead?” with a simple “dead.” In contrast, 49% picked “alive” when asked the same question.

“It is disturbing that about half of the largest generation in America doesn’t believe the American dream is there for them personally,” John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director, told Bloomberg. “That frustration, I think, is tied into a government they don’t trust and they don’t think is working for them.”

Digging into the demographic of these respondents also reveals that education level played a significant role in determining the vitality of the American Dream. 58% of millennials who graduated from college said the Dream was alive for them personally, while for those who were not in college or have never enrolled in one, only 42% said the same.

Political affiliation during this election season also revealed that among millennials who would vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump, 61% said the American Dream was dead, compared with 39% who said it’s alive. Fifty-six percent of those who favor Bernie Sanders as the Democrat presidential nominee also said there was no future for the American Dream.

These findings come after the latest report from the Pew Research Center showed that the middle class was shrinking and no longer represented the majority of the U.S. population. The 18-to-29 age range saw the biggest drop in income status among all age groups since 1971, Pew noted, dovetailing with a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute that showed inflation-adjusted hourly wages of young college graduates in 2013 were lower than they were in the late 1990s.