There are many versions of the “American Dream.” For some people, it might entail owning a home. For others, it represents economic freedom and the opportunity to start a small business.
On a universal level, the American Dream embodies progress. It is fueled by hope and the belief that you can forge a better life than the one you inherited.
James Truslow Adams, the writer who coined the term in his 1931 book Epic of America, defined the American Dream as, “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
It sounds promising, but how does the American Dream appeal to immigrants? What do they think of it? And does it still provide the same glimmer of hope that it did in the 20th century?
Here’s how today’s immigrants are pursuing the American Dream:
Public Opinion of the American Dream
The American Dream is alive and well, particularly for Hispanic immigrants. According to a recent study by Pew Research, Hispanics are actually far more likely to believe in the American Dream than the general U.S. population.
In fact, over 77% of Hispanics think they can achieve the American Dream through hard work. By contrast, only 62% of the U.S. public holds such optimism.
In an even more impressive statistic, 75% of Hispanics believe their standard of living eclipses that of their parents, while only 56% of the U.S. public can say the same.
According to the Pew Research study, Latinos fulfill various aspects of the American Dream through their three most cherished goals:
- Being a good parent (51%)
- Providing for family (49%)
- Owning a home (33%)
While many immigrants are confidently pursuing the American Dream, how successful are they in attaining it?
Evidence of Upward Mobility
Intergenerational mobility is foundational to the American Dream. It embodies the belief that children should stand on the shoulders of their parents — that they might reach the “promised land.”
The question remains: are second and third generation immigrants truly better off than their parents? According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the answer is a resounding yes.
Drawing on data for immigrants from both Latin America and Asia, the NBER study determined that children of immigrants have greater chances of upward mobility “despite large changes in country of origin, initial income levels, and U.S. immigration policy over the last century.”
In other words, immigrants consistently overcome incredible challenges to achieve the American Dream. And in many cases, they realize that dream more fully than U.S.-born citizens.
Better yet, proof of upward mobility for immigrant children is not limited to a particular country. As the NBER study found, “children of immigrants from nearly every sending country have higher rates of upward mobility than the children of the US-born.”
The American Dream remains firmly within reach for people from all walks of life.
Success Stories & International Acclaim
Immigration remains a hot-button subject in the United States. While policies and laws are always evolving, favorability towards immigrants remains strong across American industries.
To put it simply, companies in all sectors are seeking international talent to help grow their businesses.
In a recent study, the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that America’s most successful entrepreneurs and scientists are in favor of relaxed immigration policies.
Their reasoning is clear: “[immigrants] will help America to grow and prosper. The achievements of immigrants in the form of Nobel Prizes, successful businesses and contributions in other fields are a testament to the American Dream.”
In fact, since the year 2000, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to immigrants 37% of the time. In 2020 alone, one of the five American recipients for the prize was an immigrant. According to the NFAP study, immigrants have “played an outsized role in bringing honor and recognition to America in scientific fields.”
Ultimately, multiple prominent studies have affirmed the accessibility of the American Dream. From recent expats to second generation children and Nobel Prize winners, immigrants from around the world are routinely achieving and enjoying the American Dream.
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