Differences Between Male and Female Achievement of the American Dream  

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Overall reported achievement of the American Dream is reported by men and women to be essentially the same, but there are notable differences in the self-reported level of achievement among the 35 dimensions (sub-dreams) that statistically define the American Dream.


Xavier University has created the American Dream Composite Index (ADCI). It is the first statistically validated measure of the American Dream. The ADCI is a comprehensive measure that quantifies the American Dream in its entirety, taking into account all aspects of the lives of residents in the United States.

Each month, some 1,000 respondents—representative of the US population—respond to 139 statements pertaining to various aspects of the American Dream. Responses to these statements comprise the 35 ADCI dimensions that ultimately make-up the ADCI.


This analysis looks at a data set comprised of 12,235 responses (6,900 female, 5335 male) from across the Nation over the period of January 2014 – December 2014. The scores across the 35 dimensions were compared. Simplistically, an index of 95 is judged to indicate a meaningful negative comparative difference. Conversely, an index of 105 or greater is judged to indicate a meaningful positive comparative difference.  All index data are presented as female ADCI score divided by male rounded to the nearest whole number. If a specific ADCI dimension is not presented it is because the index was between 96 and 104 suggesting no meaningful difference by gender.

Dimensions Women Report Greater Achievement Against Than Men

Support of a Friend (index 108)
Support of Someone Special (index 107)
Personal/Social Identity (index 106)

Dimensions Women Report Less Achievement Against Than Men

Generational Progress (index 93)
Job Environment (index 95)
Material Prosperity (index 95)
Safety in Travel (index 93)
Job Benefits (index 91)
Just Society (index 95)
Access to Education (index 93)
Financial Security (index 94)


Overall, both men and women residing in the U.S. feel they are achieving their American Dream to roughly equivalent degrees (index 99). But there are differences in the degree to which the various dimensions that comprise the American Dream are achieved.

One hypothesis is the differences in perceived achievement of ADCI between the sexes could be a reflection in the different participation rates. It is important to note in 2012, 58% of women were in the labor force compared to 70% of men (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2014 Women In The Labor Force Report). In addition, women earn significantly less on average and hold fewer senior level positions. I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest these inequalities might go a long way to explaining the difference in dimensions like job environment, job benefits, material prosperity and generational progress.

Assuming your community reflects the national average, one practical implication for economic development would be to preferentially pursue capital investment/expansion of companies that are more gender balanced in employment and have a positive track record on promoting women to senior positions.

On the flip side, women seem to have a more healthy support network than men. These stereotypical nurturing competencies have been independently confirmed in research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman reported in a March 15, 2012 Harvard Business Review article. Jack and Joe also found women were rated higher in 12 of 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership.

One practical action step could be to ensure your community has an active program for professionals (male or female) to encourage networking and the development of effective collaboration skills. Major employers in your community should enthusiastically support this program.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Given the data, what are some tactics economic development and community leaders should consider implementing? Does your community have a program you believe is working well to address the gender performance differences? Please feel free to respond.

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