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The American Dream
Is Disappearing in Rural America

Monday, August 28, 2017

By Cheryl Russell, American Consumers Newsletter

In rural areas, the American Dream is slipping away. At least that's how those who live there feel, according to a Demo Memo analysis of the General Social Survey.

The GSS asks respondents whether they agree or disagree with the statement: "The way things are in America, people like me and my family have a good chance of improving our standard of living." This is the percentage who agree that the American Dream still applies to them by urban status...

Belief in the American Dream by urban status, 2016

74% of those who live in central cities of 12 largest metros
60% of those who live in central cities of 13-100 largest metros
58% of those who live in suburbs of 12 largest metros
58% of those who live in suburbs of 13-100 largest metros
57% of those who live in other urban areas
47% of those who live in rural areas

Only 47% of Americans who live in rural areas have faith in the American dream versus 74% of the residents of the largest central cities. It gets worse. Analyzing the data by race and Hispanic origin shows that only 40% of non-Hispanic Whites in rural areas think the American Dream works for them. This pessimism is not shared by their counterparts in cities and suburbs, most of whom still believe in the American Dream – including 71% of non-Hispanic Whites in the largest cities. Blacks, too, do not share the pessimism of rural non-Hispanic Whites. About two-thirds of Blacks have faith in the dream, whether they live in rural areas, suburbs, or cities.

Belief in the American Dream among non-Hispanic Whites in rural areas was much greater in 2000, when 68% believed they had a good chance of improving their living standard. By 2010, the figure had fallen to 54%. Because of the Great Recession, belief in the Dream also took a hit during those years among non-Hispanic Whites in central cities and suburbs. Since 2010, faith in the American Dream among non-Hispanic Whites in cities and suburbs has rebounded. There has been no rebound for non-Hispanic Whites in rural areas.

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