Front & Center asks: Is the American Dream deferred?

September 12, 2012

Since its creation, the United States have been a refuge for the poor and disenfranchised. But in recent decades, the rags to riches stories of our early history are now few and far between. Gone are the blue-collar manufacturing jobs that made poor men and women into upper-middle class citizens who had plump retirement funds and saved for their children's college tuitions. Add to that the high cost of education and it's made college unattainable for many.

That means poor and middle class young Americans have fewer opportunities to get the best jobs and that means fewer chances at becoming wealthy, powerful and influential. So, how did this happen and why? Historically, people in the Great Lakes region have worked in factories. But many of those jobs disappeared as the economy shifted away from heavy industry. More and more Americans are focused on getting by, not getting rich. And our nation's future is sometimes suffering the consequences.

Beginning October 22nd, Front & Center: American Dream Deferred will look at how the recession has re-shaped the American Dream. We'll focus on young Americans specifically and explore several scenarios:

Single mothers with little education and high child care expenses who are struggling to create better futures for their children.  

Immigrants missing opportunities at employment and education because of legal challenges.

Young urban men and women captive in communities where violence and poverty is at every corner and street. 

Some facts about economic mobility in America:

  • 40% of Americans born at the bottom of the economic ladder will remain there as adults.
  • 70% of American adults will never reach higher than middle class.
  • Attaining a four-year college degree increases the likelihood of moving from the bottom and can keep Americans from moving down the ladder.
  • There was a near-2% increase in income inequality between 2010 and 2011.
  • 6% decrease in median family income from 2000 to 2010
  • 35.4% of all wealth in America was held by the top 1% of Americans in 2010.
  • 8.1% of Americans are unemployed. 
  • 40% of unemployed Americans have been so for 27 weeks or more.
  • 15%, or 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty in 2011.
  • 10 million jobs need to be created to return America to its pre-recession unemployment rate.

(Source: United States Census BureauPew Economic Mobility Project, Economic Policy Institute's State of Working America, Bureau of Labor Statisitcs.)