Immigrants Are Key To Reinvigorating The American Dream

SBA Image“The media tends to report rumors, speculations, and projections as facts. How does the media do this? By quoting some “expert”. Unfortunately, you can always find some expert who will say something hopelessly hopeless about anything.”

Quote Attributed To: Peter McWilliams

The academic world has been busy lately espousing points of view on the American Dream. I find it fascinating that they get so much media coverage when the Xavier University research which quantifies the American Dream and reports on how well residents of the US feel they are achieving it goes unreferenced. Why do academic “experts” continually ignore relevant data?

There Is No American Dream

Professor Clark is an educator in the field of economics at UC Davis. He claims his research findings confirm there is no American Dream. It is a hoax perpetrated on the public. Professor Clark has analyzed 100 years of data regarding social mobility and claims that the idea hard work leads to more opportunities is an illusion. His research suggests the economic status of Americans is essentially predetermined by the economic status of their parents. He claims that being stuck in a social status is no American Dream – it’s the American reality. For perspective, Professor Clark’s findings were published by the Council on Foreign Affairs.

Illegal Immigrants Make It Tougher For Americans To Achieve The American Dream

Professor Clark indicates that immigration is widening social inequality in the US. He claims that previous waves of immigrants “managed to achieve equality in income, education, and wealth with native populations [those born in the US] within one or two generations.” But, recent evidence suggests it may now be taking seven to ten generations to achieve average status.

America Has No Higher Rate Of Social Mobility Than Medieval England

Professor Clark’s contention is that your fate in America is for all intensive purposes pre-determined. Basically, if you are poor (as many immigrants are) you are screwed.

The Higher The Bar, The Harder The Climb

The Economist did an article entitled – Can We Increase Mobility By Reducing Inequality? – authored by Francisco Ferreira of the World Bank. Francisco concluded “…as the rungs of the ladder grow further apart, it gets harder for people to climb up (or move down). Conversely countries with institutions that promote a level playing field, and redistribute income or opportunity, may also promote mobility.”

I Am Just Saying …

Hey, I am a simple guy. I’m also the grandson of an immigrant. For the most part, I never felt my opportunity for success was hampered by anything other than my ability. Of course, I have run into a number of people who were successful in spite of themselves because they were well connected or lucky (or good at faking skills).

I don’t see the American Dream as a sham or a hoax. I believe it is very real and the opportunity to be successful exists. I also believe people need to seize the opportunity in order to realize it. Being born in the US or immigrating to it does not automatically assure your success. I have seen how well intended government programs end up becoming a handout instead of a hand-up, and I think we need to be able to tell the difference. People caught in the disempowering cycle of handouts clearly struggle to achieve their full personal potential. But, that isn’t a function of the American dream being a myth. It is a function of well intended public policies having unintended consequences.

I also believe immigrants renew the American Dream. They bring an energy to capitalize on the opportunities presented in the US and work hard to improve their economic condition. My grandfather was one such immigrant. He came to the US through Ellis Island and became a brick layer in Utica, NY. I am proud to say his grandchildren have all achieved my Grandfather’s vision of having a better life than he did. Maybe he is the exception to the rule Professor Clark speaks of. Perhaps so, but I honestly don’t think so.

Want To Learn More About The American Dream?

If you want to learn what the American Dream actually is and how residents in the US feel about their ability to achieve it, check out Xavier University’s research on the topic. It is a statistically validated assessment of an media mangled subject.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Laima Rastikis

    December 22, 2014

    I agree, Ed. The American Dream is not a myth. People come to this country because they perceive it as a land of possibilities, a place that offers them a chance to create a better life than their native country. Is there another nation on the planet that inspires as much hope? I recently heard a woman from India speak poignantly about this very subject at TEDX Dayton.

    The American Dream has been a very real part of my life. I’m the daughter of immigrants. My parents came to the US seeking freedom from Soviet rule in Lithuania after WWII. What they envisioned in coming here was the American Dream. With a lot of hard work and too much pride to accept handouts, they achieved it.

    Many Americans don’t appreciate America because they’ve never seen real oppression. I have. And I wouldn’t trade the messiness of democracy, the beauty of the Melting Pot or the freedoms we enjoy for anything.

  2. Ed Burghard

    December 22, 2014

    Lamia – Thank you for sharing your story. I find it inspirational and hope other readers do as well.

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