American Dream

Updated on January 5, 2024
Article byKosha Mehta
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is The American Dream?

The American dream is a concept rooted in the belief that every individual, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to achieve success, and social mobility through hard work, and perseverance. It embodies the ideals of freedom, equality, and the pursuit of happiness.

American Dream

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The American dream has played a significant role in shaping the national identity and serving as a beacon of hope for generations, attracting immigrants from around the world seeking a chance to realize their full potential. It has been instrumental in driving economic growth, social mobility, embodying the core values upon which the United States was built.

Key Takeaways

  • The American Dream in “The Great Gatsby” is depicted as the pursuit of wealth, success, and a luxurious lifestyle, exemplified by the character of Jay Gatsby.
  • The American Dream is attractive due to its promise of upward mobility, personal fulfillment, and the ideals of freedom and equality.
  • The American dream has been a driving force behind America’s economic prosperity and innovation
  • The achievement of the American Dream varies among individuals and can include successful entrepreneurs, self-made millionaires, accomplished professionals, and those who have overcome adversity to attain their goals.

American Dream Explained

The American dream encompasses the ideal that everyone, regardless of background or circumstances, has equal opportunities to achieve their goals and aspirations. It represents the pursuit of success, happiness, and a better life through hard work, determination, and meritocracy. The American dream serves as a powerful motivator, inspiring individuals to strive for a better life and push their limits, fostering innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit in the pursuit of personal and societal progress.

t has attracted generations of immigrants, who see America as a land of opportunity, contributing to the nation’s cultural diversity and entrepreneurial spirit. By embodying the principles of equality, freedom, and upward mobility, the American dream fosters social mobility, social cohesion, and the belief in a better future for all.


Over time, the notion of the American Dream has evolved, reflecting changing societal values and aspirations. From its early focus on individual opportunity and economic success, the American Dream has expanded to include notions of social justice, equality, and inclusivity. This evolution reflects a growing recognition of the importance of collective progress and the realization that the American Dream should be accessible to all, regardless of background or circumstances.

Just as species adapt and evolve to survive and thrive in changing environments, the American Dream has evolved to address the changing needs and aspirations of society. During the 19th century, it took on a materialistic aspect with the emergence of the Industrial Revolution. It became associated with the pursuit of wealth, economic opportunity, and social mobility.

In the mid-20th century, following World War II, the American Dream expanded to include concepts of suburban homeownership, a stable job, and a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. This period saw a rise in consumerism and the belief that hard work could lead to a better life.

In recent decades, the American Dream has undergone further evolution, with a greater emphasis on individual fulfillment, personal happiness, and social progress. It has incorporated notions of diversity, equal rights, and access to education and healthcare as important components of achieving the dream.


Let us look at examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

One example that illustrates the American dream is the story of Steve Jobs. Coming from modest beginnings, Jobs co-founded Apple Inc. and revolutionized the technology industry. Through his vision, hard work, and relentless pursuit of excellence, he achieved personal success and transformed how we communicate, work, and consume media.

Jobs’ journey exemplifies the American dream as he started with limited resources and overcame obstacles to create one of the most influential companies in the world. His story represents the possibilities in America, where individuals can rise from humble beginnings to achieve extraordinary accomplishments, leaving a lasting impact on society.

Example #2

As per an article by Looper, the American Dream is reinforced by Mark Cuban’s involvement in the TV show “Shark Tank.” The article highlights The show has become a reinforcement of the American dream,” Cuban says. “When people witness others coming on the show and witnessing their success, they are inspired to believe they can achieve their dreams. The opportunity to receive advice and feedback is invaluable, serving as an educational experience.

Given the current economic climate, this holds significant importance in how Cuban’s success as a billionaire entrepreneur and investor exemplifies the American Dream. It discusses his journey from humble beginnings to achieving immense wealth and fame, emphasizing his role as a symbol of opportunity and upward mobility. The article further explores how Cuban’s participation in “Shark Tank” provides a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs. They can pitch their ideas and potentially realize their versions of the American Dream.

How To Measure?

It can be measured in ways, but one way is through measuring Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the United States over time. GDP is a commonly used indicator to assess a country’s overall economic performance and living standard.

Since its founding, the United States has experienced significant economic growth, indicating the realization of economic opportunities and upward mobility associated with the American Dream. For instance, in the years following World War II, the U.S. experienced a period of remarkable economic expansion known as the “post-war economic boom.”

During this time, the American Dream was exemplified by substantial increases in GDP, accompanied by rising wages, widespread job opportunities, and an expanding middle class. This period of growth not only resulted in improved living standards for many Americans but also fostered innovation, technological advancements, and the development of industries that have had a profound impact on the global economy.

While GDP alone does not capture the entirety of the American Dream, it indicates economic progress and the potential for individuals to achieve financial success and prosperity. The sustained growth of the U.S. economy over time can be seen as a testament to the opportunities and upward mobility that the American Dream promises.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Let us look at the advantages of the American Dream:

  1. Motivation and Aspiration: The American Dream is a powerful motivator, inspiring individuals to work hard, set ambitious goals, and strive for success. It fosters a culture of ambition and perseverance, driving individuals to improve their lives and contribute to society.
  2. Economic Mobility: The American Dream is closely associated with the belief in upward social and economic mobility. It encourages individuals to believe that with hard work and determination, they have the potential to improve their financial situation and achieve a better standard of living than their predecessors.
  3. Entrepreneurial Spirit: The American Dream celebrates entrepreneurship and innovation. It encourages individuals to take risks, pursue their passions, and create new businesses and opportunities. This spirit of entrepreneurship has contributed to economic growth, job creation, and technological advancements.

Let us look at disadvantages of the American Dream:

  1. Inequality and Disparity: The pursuit of the American Dream does not guarantee equal outcomes for everyone. Economic disparities and social inequality can arise as some individuals face systemic barriers, discrimination, or limited access to resources and opportunities. This can result in unequal distribution of wealth and limited social mobility.
  2. Unrealistic Expectations: The American Dream can create unrealistic expectations and place undue pressure on individuals to achieve material success and societal approval. This can lead to stress and a focus on worldly pursuits at the expense of well-being, and a balanced life.
  3. Lack of Social Safety Net: The emphasis on individual effort and personal responsibility inherent in the American Dream can sometimes neglect the importance of social support systems. Limited access to healthcare, education, and social safety nets can hinder individuals’ ability to overcome challenges.
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American Dream vs American Reality

Let us look at the differences between the American Dream and the American reality:

BasisAmerican DreamAmerican Reality
OpportunityEmphasizes equal opportunities for successDisparities exist based on factors like race, class, and gender
Social MobilityBelief in upward social and economic mobilitySocial mobility has been declining in recent decades
ProsperityPursuit of financial success and material wealthIncome inequality is prevalent, with a significant wealth gap
EducationAccess to quality education for allEducational disparities exist, impacting equal opportunities
WorkValuing hard work and its connection to successWidespread income stagnation and a lack of worker protections
DiversityCelebrating diversity and cultural inclusivityOngoing struggles with systemic racism and discrimination
HealthcareBelief in accessible and affordable healthcareChallenges with healthcare affordability and access leave many uninsured
Social Safety NetThe notion of a robust social safety netLimited social safety net, with gaps in healthcare, housing, and income support

American Dream vs Canadian Dream

Let us have a look at the differences between the American Dream and the Canadian Dream:

BasisAmerican DreamCanadian Dream
OpportunityEmphasizes equal opportunities for successFocuses on equality, social justice, and inclusivity
Social MobilityBelief in upward social and economic mobilityStrong emphasis on social mobility and a robust social safety net
DiversityCelebrating diversity and cultural inclusivityMulticulturalism as a core value, promoting diversity and inclusiveness
EducationAccess to quality education for allStrong investment in public education and affordable post-secondary education
WorkValuing hard work and its connection to successEmphasis on work-life balance, employee rights, and a supportive work environment
HealthcareBelief in accessible and affordable healthcareA universal healthcare system that provides comprehensive coverage to all residents
EnvironmentThe balance between economic growth and environmental sustainabilityPrioritizes environmental stewardship and sustainability
Safety and SecurityValuing personal safety and securityFocus on public safety, low crime rates, and social stability

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What was the American dream in the great Gatsby?

In the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American Dream is depicted as the pursuit of wealth, success, and a luxurious lifestyle. The character of Gatsby, who amasses wealth in hopes of winning the love of Daisy, embodies this version of the American Dream.

2. Why is the American Dream so attractive?

The American Dream is attractive for several reasons. It promises the possibility of upward mobility and achieving a better life through hard work and determination. It taps into the ideals of freedom, and the pursuit of happiness, appealing to individuals’ desires for personal and material fulfillment.

3. Should the American dream be capitalized?

Regarding capitalization, whether to capitalize “American Dream” depends on the the personal beliefs. It is common to capitalize it as it refers to a specific concept or ideal associated with American culture. However, if it is used in a more general sense, it may be left uncapitalized.

4. Who has achieved the American dream?

The American Dream is a subjective and individual pursuit, so the achievement of it varies among people. Individuals from various backgrounds have been considered to have achieved the American Dream. Like successful entrepreneurs, self-made millionaires, accomplished professionals, and those who have overcome adversity to attain their goals.

This article has been a guide to what is American Dream. Here, we explain its examples, evolution, advantages, how to measure, and comparison with Canadian dream. You may also find some useful articles here –

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