Economic Mobility and the American Dream: Where Do We Stand in the Wake of the Great Recession? – 2011


In a continuing negative trend, only 32% percent of Americans view their individual financial situation positively. The outlook on the national economy, however, is trending up (55% of Americans rate the national economy as “poor” compared to 73% in 2009). This report release by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Mobility Project provides local governments with a perspective on how Americans view their economic mobility, the implications of that perspective, and what it means for the role of government.

Key Points

This report is an update to the Pew Economic Mobility Project begun in 2009 to measure how Americans currently feel about their prospects for a better economic future, and the role of government in helping that happen. This 2011 national poll reassesses the public’s perceptions of economic mobility and the American Dream, as the nation emerges from the Great Recession. Not surprisingly, most Americans remain pessimistic about their own economic circumstances, but remain optimistic about the future. They see a role for government to help poor and middle-class Americans succeed, but a majority believes the government currently does more to harm than to help economic mobility.

Other highlights include:

  1. Americans view the role of government as preventing “downward mobility.” Ways to do so include “keep jobs in America” (90%) and improving “the quality of elementary and high school education” (84%) (page 4).
  2. Sadly, 52% of Americans interviewed believe that government is doing “more to hurt” people than help people move up the economic ladder.
  3. Due in large part to the Great Recession, Americans view financial stability as more important than moving up the income ladder by an overwhelming majority at 85% to 13%.
  4. Less than half of Americans (47%) believe their children “will have a higher standard of living as adults than they themselves now enjoy” (page 2).

How to Use

This survey provides city planners and local government officials planning information for an aging population by outlining the key livable community features and services of interest to the aging population, along with gaps for successful community planning. Additionally, this survey provides a great resource and case study for other communities looking to determine the livability needs of an aging population.

View full report: Economic Mobility and the American Dream: Where Do We Stand in the Wake of the Great Recession? – 2011 (PDF – 377 KB)

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