Inequality, Life Chances, Upward Mobility, & the American Dream

Inequality, Life Chances, Upward Mobility, & the American Dream

A brief discussion of inequalities that prohibit upward mobility.

In the United States, the “American Dream” is core ideal often preached and believed by many Americans. American culture promotes the American Dream which dictates that as long as one works hard the opportunity exists for prosperity and success. The American Dream also asserts that upward social and financial mobility is possible regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. This thought promotes the image of a society in which inequalities do not exist and gives little credence to the fact that inequalities are real problems, prohibiting upward mobility.

Upward mobility rarely happens because life chances or opportunities differ in availability for socioeconomic groups according to their access to resources. For example, if you are poor you have less access to loans which makes starting a business more difficult than a rich person starting a business. Despite this fact, the American Dream is still a prevalent ideology because it suppresses underprivileged groups of people and places the blame on them rather than society. This issue dates back to the founding of the US and remains unchanged in many ways.

Claims that the American Dream is a reality, usually cite instances of when immigrants first came to the United States and become successful. The truth is that only immigrants who possess valuable skill or have money to start enterprises become successful which has little to do with hard work. Cases are often cited of poor black people becoming successful in order to claim the American Dream is real, when the reality is that these cases are outliers and only happen in unique circumstances. The reason that the American Dream is still relevant is due to its reinforcement of privileged groups that do not want to take responsibility for the fact that social systems in the United States are responsible for keeping people in the class they were born.

Back to: Ten Years of Academic Writing