Report: The American Dream–What Are We Working Towards?

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The definition of the “American Dream,” and the best way to pursue it, has become more individual and personal than ever before, according to a new report.

The 2011 MetLife Study of the American Dream, released Dec. 8 drew on a representative sample of approximately 1,400, including individuals from the silent, baby boomer, Gen X and Gen Y generations, and a variety of ethnic groups.

The report found that Americans are still largely driven by the belief that hard work will bring success, but what they are working towards has shifted from the early-to-mid-20th Century norm of a college education, marriage, a single-family home with a picket fence, a car, and children.

The report characterizes the new American dream as “do it yourself,” with individuals finding and adding the elements most important to them when deciding how to define their success.

Increasingly, respondents said they placed importance on self-fulfillment and strong relationships with family and friends, and were less focused on attaining material items, as 74 percent said they have all the necessities of life. Also, the need to obtain a lifestyle that surpasses that of their parents is also less important. For all groups, personal fulfillment and attaining enough money to live the way they chose trumped the importance of wealth and financial success.

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For all groups except the oldest generation, whose children are likely already grown, providing for security of their children was more important than wealth and financial success.

According to the report, overwhelming numbers of African-Americans did not see wealth as an integral part of achieving the American Dream. More than 70 percent felt that they didn’t have to be wealthy, 65 percent said they do feel they need a college degree and 71 percent said marriage is not important to achieving the American Dream.

Despite the change in focus, 76 percent of African Americans said they are working as hard, or harder than their parents to achieve their version of the American Dream, saying they are working longer hours, or picking up freelance work and second jobs.

To view the complete report, visit www.metlife.com/dream.