Is the American Dream Dead?
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Photo: Kocijanski

Is the American Dream Dead?


The US is the world’s largest economy and the apotheosis of industrialization and scientific progress. This gives an illusion that the US is the best country to live in. But the reality is far from it.

In 2015, 193 United Nations member states pledged to reduce inequality as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A report released in 2017 ranked these countries on how they were tackling the gap between the rich and the poor. The report analyzes each country's scores based on three categories: spending on health, education and social protection; progressive structure and incidence of tax; and labor market policies to address inequality.

The report highlights that despite its wealth, and seemingly high quality of life, the level of financial inequality in the US is "the highest among most major industrial countries, leaving tens of millions of working people impoverished." It also concluded that women and people of color are the ones who suffer the most.

The report states, "Among rich countries, the USA does very badly" referring to its overall Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) score.

The report further brings forth the point that "The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is well below the $10.60 per hour needed for a family of four to stay above the federal poverty line." The US government has not raised the minimum wage since 2009, which, adjusting for inflation, "is less than it was 50 years ago."

Financial parameters only might not always show the level of well-being of the citizens of a country. That being said, measuring wellbeing can be a tricky affair. In 2015, the UN defined 17 parameters for measuring a country’s claim to achieving complete and sustainable development. These parameters range from ending poverty, to gender equality, to environment preservation, among others.

When an analysis was carried out using these parameters, the US was found to perform dismally in most areas including healthcare, education, and violence against women.

The analysis proves that while the US with over $63.5 trillion in total private wealth—holds the largest amount of any country in the world, it does not translate into the overall well-being of the American citizens. 


The US has the second-highest rate of poverty among rich nations. According to a UNICEF survey, 23.1% of kids in the US live in poverty. The situation for blacks and Hispanic American children is gloomier. They have a poverty rate of 36% and 31% respectively.

*Measured by the percentage of people earning less than half the national median income

Food Security and Nutrition

Food security can be measured using two parameters: access to food, and diet quality, with obesity being a primary indicator of poor diet quality. The US leads the OECD countries in obesity.

Is the American Dream Dead?


The per capita healthcare spending in the US is among the highest in the world yet Americans experience poor health outcomes, with a life expectancy that ranks 31st internationally. The US has fewer physicians, psychiatric care beds, hospital beds than most economically prosperous countries of the world.

Is the American Dream Dead?

Child mortality rate in the US is higher than any other advanced economy. Life expectancy at birth is also the lowest among all OECD countries. It is also the only advanced economy in the world that does not provide full health coverage to its citizens.

Is the American Dream Dead?

The US also stands out as being the only country in the world where maternal mortality has increased, rather than decreasing over the past 15 years.


The American citizens are among the highest spenders when it comes to education between pre-primary and secondary school. Americans also spend almost double the OECD average on higher education. The cost of a tertiary degree in the US is about $110,000, while the OECD the average is $50,000.

Despite the high cost of education, the US fares average among OECD countries when it comes to basic literacy and problem-solving skills. Basic numeracy in the US is lower than in most OECD countries.

Is the American Dream Dead?

Gender Equality

Even here the performance of the US is quite poor. Percentage of American women who experience gender-related violence is significantly higher than the OECD average.

Is the American Dream Dead?

Only 20% of the congressional seats are occupied in the US by women while female representation on the boards of publicly traded US companies also leaves much to be desired. To top it all, the gender wage gap is also wider in the US.

Is the American Dream Dead?

The US and Lesotho are the only two countries in the world that do not mandate paid maternity leave.

Is the American Dream Dead?


Only 12% of the energy output in the US is renewable, far below the world average.

Is the American Dream Dead?


Despite all the hullabaloo surrounding job creation, bringing jobs back to the US, this is one of the few parameters where the US performs better that the OECD average. Maybe the hullabaloo is just a rhetoric to win elections.

Is the American Dream Dead?

Both the Republicans and the Democrats agree that infrastructure in America needs to be improved. The current US investment in infrastructure is just 75% of the average investment of OECD nations.

Is the American Dream Dead?

The road infrastructure is so dismal that the US ranks among the highest in the number of deaths resulting from car accidents.

Is the American Dream Dead?

Income inequality

As we mentioned earlier income inequality in the US is the highest among all developed nations. What is more worrying is that instead of shrinking, this gap is gradually widening. It has given rise to many social issues including crime, and malnutrition.

Is the American Dream Dead?

Peaceful living

The US fares pretty poorly in the intangible parameters that show a nation’s quality of life. These parameters take into account factors like democratic participation, incidences and the perceived risk of violent crimes.

Is the American Dream Dead?

When it comes to voter turnout, which also shows the belief of the citizens in the democratic institutions of the country, US fares very poorly. The US is also one of the few countries in the world where eligible citizens aren’t automatically registered to vote. Maybe just like the American citizens don’t trust the government, the American government also does not care about whether citizens come out to vote or not. Maybe the outcome of the elections is already predetermined by the deep-state of the US.

Is the American Dream Dead?

“Sadly, the American dream is dead,” Donald Trump proclaimed while announcing his candidacy for the position of the president of the United States. This we can all see from the data presented here.

During his acceptance speech, he again pronounced that the American dream is dead but promised to revive it.

It has been over a year and a half since he assumed office. Looking at the current state of affairs in the country, it would be safe to assume, though unwillingly, that things are not going to improve anytime soon.

Author: Pradeep Banerjee