About a year ago a friend and I were sitting in this little Irish pub in my hometown catching up and talking about how different the lives we thought we’d have in high school and even college have turned out to be.
“I don’t think I’ll be better off than my parents economically, but that’s o.k., I’m better off in other ways,” she remarked.
I had to agree. If the American Dream was supposed to be about achieving more economically than your parents than for a certain group of millennials that dream doesn’t exist. At least for those of us lucky enough to grow up in middle to upper-middle class families. We graduated college into a recession, we struggled to find jobs or went to get masters degree. We have staggering amounts of student loans debt making it hard to get by day-to-day and month to month let alone think about having a family of our own or buying house.
And that’s o.k., because we’ll eventually figure out the family stuff and the buying a home stuff. Due to the recession we’ll probably still make less economically than other generations, but we value different things such as greater work/life balance and jobs that do some social good. Not that other generations didn’t but I think that while it use to be acceptable to stay put at a job and work your way it’s now becoming more acceptable to leave when it’s not working. And that’s exciting.
On Oct. 24, 2013 I hosted a Twitter chat for PBS NewsHour with Nicole Levins of the Urban Institute on the new American Dream. I couldn’t help thinking back to that conversation. We discussed a number of things during the chat including the definition of the American Dream, how the recession and recovery has affected that dream, if a college degree is necessary for the American dream, the ideal job; a 9 to 5 desk job with job security of a flexible job with less job security, how important is owning a home and what retirement looks like.
The responses differed widely but were fascinating, sometimes inspiring and other times troubling. Here are some of my favorites along with some tweeted photos to the question what does your American dream look like? See the full transcript of the chat on the NewsHour website.
The new American Dream is less about material fulfillment and more about spiritual/existential fulfillment. #NewsHourChats
— Eric Lenz (@erjlenz) October 24, 2013
— Leah LaCroix (@leahpeah91) October 24, 2013
— Cheryl Mullen (@cherylthemuse66) October 24, 2013
A5: Partner & I both got masters degrees to get ahead but student debt will keep us from buying house anytime soon. Ironic? #Newshourchats
— Ashley Wood (@awoodash) October 24, 2013
— Banks Willis (@banks_willis) October 24, 2013
— 802 South (@vzwdroid) October 24, 2013
— Mark Wagner (@MarkDWagnerKC) October 24, 2013