2016 American Dream States and Cities Report

The American dream is that dream of a land in which life should be richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.

Quote Attributed to: James Truslow Adams

I believe having a valid understanding the American Dream is key to figuring out how to make it easier to achieve.  The fact is the American Dream can be easier or harder to achieve depending on where you live.

Decisions on asset creation, infrastructure investment and public policies/programs can either remove or build barriers to achieving the American Dream.  Every municipality and state has a unique combination of these things.

I believe strongly the primary role of both elected officials and economic development professionals is to make it easier for residents to achieve their American Dream.

That means decisions around how your tax dollars are spent on the above drivers should be made with clear knowledge of the impact on your ability to achieve your American Dream.  Unfortunately, this is not the case today.  There are many misperception around what the American Dream really is and success for both elected officials and economic development professionals is not yet measured on whether they made it easier or harder for you to achieve your American Dream.

This situation needs to change!

Research Findings

Xavier University’s study indicates the American Dream is not one-dimensional. In fact, the Dream is actually made up of 35 separate dimensions (based on factor analysis). This finding means articles suggesting the American Dream is defined as owning a home, or getting a college education, or making more money than your parents, or upward mobility (just to name but a few themes of pieces I have read over the last year) are incorrect and misleading. This is important because authors suggesting the American Dream is one-dimensional are often promoting a self-serving agenda.

Here is a list of the 35 dimensions. I don’t think any of them will surprise you. But, you may be surprised at their breath. Xavier University took appropriate steps to ensure the dimensions are related to each other in appropriate and predictable ways.

Financial Security – satisfaction with financial situation
Material Prosperity – ability to meet expenses and afford desired material possessions
Access to Education – ability to access a quality and affordable education
Destinations in Life – ability to choose destinations (i.e. job, housing, travel, etc.)
Job Benefits – satisfaction with job benefits and security
Health Care – ability to access and afford good health care
Freedom of Choice – ability to choose what one wants in life
Generational Progress – state of one’s life relative to parents
Home Ownership – desire and ability to own a home
Job Environment – satisfaction with work environment
Family Support – availability of help and emotional support from one’s family
Support of Friends – availability of emotional and tangible help from friends
Support of Someone Special – availability of care and support from a certain special person
Happiness – satisfaction and contentment with one’s life
Freedom of Expression – ability to express oneself freely without repercussion
Fruits of My Labor – extent to which one is rewarded fairly for efforts in life
Entrepreneurial Spirit – interest in the pursuit of new ideas and progress in life
Leisure Activities – ability to engage in leisure activities
Social Status – belief that one is well regarded by others
Personal Health – satisfaction with physical and mental health
Satisfaction with Residence – satisfaction with where one lives
Optimism – expectation of good things for oneself in life
Trust in Government – satisfaction with government’s fairness and trustworthiness
Trust in Business – satisfaction with businesses’ fairness and trustworthiness
Just Society – extent to which society is fair and moral
Trust in People – satisfaction with people’s fairness and trustworthiness
Education Quality – extent to which schools are good and promote originality
Safety in Travel – extent to which schools are good and promote originality
Safety in Community – extent of safety where one lives
Civic Participation – extent of participation in one’s community
Melting Pot: Neighborhood – acceptance of diversity in one’s neighborhood
Melting Pot: Personal and Social Identity – acceptance of different personal and different social ideas (i.e. sexual orientation, religion, etc.)
Political Freedom – satisfaction with the ability to vote freely and make political choices
Melting Pot: Diversity – extent of exposure to diverse cultural experiences
Environment – extent of pollution in the air, food, water and land that one encounters on a regular basis

American Dream States and Cities

Each year, I team up with Xavier University to publish a list of American Dream States and Cities.  We use 3-years of resident responses to a questionnaire so the results are projectable.  The exceptional States and Cities (MSAs) with an American Dream Composite Index (ADCI) score that is statistically significantly greater than national average earn the designation of American Dream State or American Dream City.

These are locations where the residents believe they are achieving their American Dream to a meaningfully greater degree than the rest of the United States.  They are locations that should serve as benchmarks for elected officials and economic development professionals located elsewhere in the nation.  Every location should be stretching to earn the designation, but only a few will in any given year.

Site Selection Magazine

The 2016 American Dream States and Cities Report has been published by Site Selection Magazine.  It is available in the January issue and the article begins on page #182.  I encourage you to click on the link and read the Report.

We are thrilled that Conway Data has partnered with The Burghard Group to publish this Report annually.  We are also thrilled Xavier University makes these data available to the economic development profession.

Next Steps

I am publishing a series of blog posts over the course of the year that provide a deeper look at each State and its major MSAs.  I encourage you to visit the Blog section of this website weekly to see if your state (or a competitive state) is featured.

In addition, if you have a follow-up question or want a custom report just send me an email (eburghard@mac.com).  One of the more helpful reports for strategic planning is a comparison of your resident perceptions with other states you feel compete for capital investment and top talent.  Special reports are available for a very nominal fee.

I also encourage you to send the Report link to your elected officials with a note to read the article beginning on page #182.  The more they understand what the American Dream actually is, the better decisions they can make with respect to investing your tax dollars.

And, of course, please provide me feedback on any of the blog posts.  The data disclose HOW residents are feeling, but not WHY.  If you have any insight into WHY they may be rating performance on a dimension below national average, I’d love to hear it.