Gauging The Dream

Ed Burghard“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.” … James Truslow Adams

It was both an honor and a thrill when I was approached by Site Selection Magazine to author an article describing the work I am doing to establish Xavier University’s American Dream Composite Index (ADCI) as the preferred metric for evaluating the performance of the economic development profession and elected officials.  For perspective, the underlying premise of my work is that the private sector is accountable for job growth, not the economic development profession or elected officials.  Instead, holding them accountable to enabling residents of their communities to better achieve the American Dream is the right standard to evaluate their performance.

The article just published.  To read the full article, simply click on the image.

Site Selection Article


The ADCI data is available on a national, multi-state regional and state level at the moment.  The team at Xavier University is evaluating the possibility of making the ADCI data available on a major metropolitan level as well.  It would be extremely helpful to the deliberation if you could comment on whether making an MSA level ADCI score will be helpful.  Thanks in advance for leaving a comment.

Read About My Journey To Learn More About The American Dream

American Dream Case Study Series

Indiana versus Michigan

Florida versus North Carolina

New York versus New Jersey

California versus Texas

Pennsylvania versus New York

North Carolina versus Texas

Ohio versus Michigan

How Easy Is It To Achieve The American Dream In Your State?

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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3 Comments so far

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  2. Bob Viney

    July 7, 2013

    Ed, not sure I fully agree with the conclusion in your article. I do agree that creating jobs is a private sector role, and that EDO’s and elected officials cannot impact this directly. However, their choices in public policy can have an indirect impact on job creation and economic growth. And at present, neither political party’s ideologies nor their policies are focused on doing that very effectively.

    If the current high unemployment rate and slow recovery from the 2008 recession is viewed as a problem, then before policy makers jump to solutions, largely based on ideology, we should analyze the causes of the problem, and develop solutions that address those causes. For me, since somewhere around 70%-75% of economic growth in the US is driven by consumer spending, we should look at what’s happened to middle class income and prosperity in the last decade or so. Data clearly shows that while businesses are enjoying record profits, middle class salary and income has declined. Simply put, the private sector policy toward sharing the profits with all employees is undermining the ability of middle class prosperity to drive economic growth for all.

    Does that mean salaries and benefits should be increased? No, businesses have restructured to be profitable at the lower consumer demand levels since 2008, as they should do. But the profits that are being generated are not merely do to executive actions. Businesses should be valuing and rewarding the efforts of middle class workers as well. Profits that are being used exclusively for executive salary increases, or bonuses, or for buying back stock, all of which are at record high levels in the past decade, should be partially reallocated to profit sharing among middle class employees. That does not undermine the profitability of a company, and would over time lead to the increased consumer spending and demand that can increase economic activity and create long term jobs in the economy.

    And isn’t that a key element of the American Dream? That those who work hard, contribute to the success of a business, will share in the success they have helped create? That is how we emerged from World War II to become the strongest economy in the history of the world. We didn’t achieve that result by concentrating wealth at the top, it’s always resulted from the demand created by a large, growing and prosperous middle class … as a result of private sector policies, not public sector policies.

    That said, public policy can facilitate this need. Speaking about the need for this action would be an important start. Meetings between business and public policy leaders to decide on how best to achieve this would an important step. Perhaps significant preferential tax treatment on profits shared with employees would be a helpful step. The worst outcome would be to continue for public policy leaders to develop solutions without clearly addressing the causes of the economic slowdown, without interacting with business leaders, and to continue to debate solutions based solely on ideologies.

    My two cents … be interested in your thoughts.

  3. Ed Burghard

    July 7, 2013


    “EDOs and elected officials play a direct role in developing and deploying strategies that either enable or hinder people’s ability to achieve their personal definition of the American Dream. They do this through the choices made in local asset creation, infrastructure investment and public policy. Job growth is not the best measure of the impact of those choices.”

    I think this quote from the article is in alignment with your perspective, so I am lost on where you disagree.

    With respect to the question of “What is the American Dream?”, the ADCI sub-indexes describe the Dream. But your general statement is the same as the quote from James Truslow Adams I have used in other writings on the American Dream, so we are in violent agreement on that point.. Even more detail about the American Dream can be found by visiting the website.

    In terms of the economic rationale you lay out for the need to spread the wealth to the middle class, I don’t have a reliable point of view. Unfortunately, I am simple branding expert and not schooled in economics. I can only say your idea is an example of a possible public policy choice that could be considered. I have no perspective on whether it is a good or bad choice.

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