Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Lauren McClain (Director), Anne Onyekwuluje, Holli Drummond

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


America has a national ethos embodied in the moniker “land of the free” and defined by a set of ideals in which being free means all men and women have an equal opportunity for prosperity, the pursuit of happiness and success. In essence, simply having access to upward social mobility achieved through one’s own perseverance and hard work, the quintessential American Dream. The first use of the phrase American Dream was by James Truslow Adams to characterize the ideal that every man should live a richer and fuller life than his ancestors based on opportunity according to ability or achievement (1931). The current study examines whether perceptions of being able to achieve the American Dream have changed in light of the economic recession of 2008 using data from the General Social Survey (n=4217). Findings show that perceptions of the American Dream have changed based on an individual’s race and class over time. Those in society who are lower class, female, who do not believe in hard work, having below average income/financial situations stand to have lower odds in the belief in their ability to attain the American Dream. Whites have lower odds of believing in the American Dream when compared to Blacks. Furthermore, respondents in 2006 and 2010 had greater odds of belief in the American Dream compared to those in 2008.


Inequality and Stratification | Race and Ethnicity | Sociology | Sociology of Culture