American Dream Case Study – New York versus New Jersey



Ed Burghard“New Jersey. A State of Resilience.”

(Choose New Jersey website)

“New York – The Center of The Global Economy”

(New York State Business First website)

 Case Study

This is one in a series of case studies to illustrate how you can use the 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report data to identify the comparative strengths and weaknesses of your state for use in a SWOT analysis.

Analysis Approach

I compare the two states based on the 35 dimensions captured in the 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report.  In this analysis, an advantage is defined as equal to or greater than an index of 105 for a specific dimension score.  A disadvantage is defined as equal to or less than an index of 95 for a specific dimension score.

Identified Points Of Difference

NY versus NJ 10x7

Click on the image to make it larger.

Generational progress reflects the sentiment that one has about their life relative to his/her parents.

Additional Perspective

The ADCI data reflect the outlook of people living in each state.  Reasons why people responded as they did cannot be determined from these data.  However, understanding the why behind the what is important to being able to define strategies that can better enable people living in your state to achieve the American Dream.

To that end, I did a Google search to find some clues to shed light on the why.  This is not intended to be a complete, nor balanced comparison between the two states.  It is simply intended to suggest there may be an underlying reason why people living in each state responded as they did.  The next step for local economic development professionals would be to conduct market research with people living in their state to better understand the true drivers of why they are feeling the way they do.  The research could be qualitative, quantitative or a combination of both.

Google Search Findings

New Jersey’s public schools are the best in the nation

A leading annual publication ranks New Jersey first in the country based on 19 factors that measure the quality of its public schools.

New Jersey students score higher than ever on AP exams

Not only is New Jersey first in the nation in the average Advanced Placement (AP) score for public school students for the third year in a row, this year’s score is the highest any state has ever scored.

High school graduation rate is #1 in the nation

New Jersey ranks first in the nation in the percentage of students graduating high school.

New Jersey ranked #39 in nation on percent of home ownership, New York ranked #50

New Jersey has a poverty rate by house hold income of 6.8%, New York has a rate of 14.5%

New York ranked #21 in health care delivery, New Jersey ranked #30.


Remember, the American Dream Composite Index™ is a measure of sentiment.  It reveals what people living in a state do, strive for, work for, wish for, and ultimately hope for as they assume multiple roles, including but not limited to, consumers, parents, children, students, employees, employers, parishioners, voters, etc.

The survey conducted by Xavier University contains 139 statements pertaining to various aspects of the American Dream.  Responses comprise the 35 dimensions that ultimately make-up the ADCI.  The survey instrument has been statistically validated.

The ADCI data reveal HOW people living in a state feel about their personal well-being and environment.  However, the data do not explain WHY people feel the way they do.  The ADCI allows economic developers to better understand opportunities for improving their state’s ability to enable the American Dream.  It also helps them identify potential competitive advantages and vulnerabilities versus other states.

Interpret the survey data as “This is the way people living in my state feel about their ability to achieve their definition of the American Dream”.


The intent behind sharing the study results is to raise important questions that are beyond the scope of these data to answer.  The kind of questions that, when answered, will provide you insight into which barriers to achieving the American Dream you should be working to remove.

I have no doubt some economic development professionals will be dissatisfied with their state’s rank.  This is totally understandable.  I am actually not thrilled with where my state  ended up in the ranking.

But, please don’t ignore the ranking.  Instead, use it to encourage local work in answering the WHY question.  Why do people living in your state feel the way they do?  Answering this question will provide valuable insights to use in your state’s economic development strategic planning process.

So, which states offer their residents the greatest chance of living the American Dream to the fullest, and which states are lagging behind?

To view the complete set of State rankings based on the ADCI and five explanatory sub-indexes, simply click this button

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For additional information on the ADCI click HERE.

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