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The Modern American Dream

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					The Modern American Dream
What defines today’s American Dream and those who pursue it




               Michael Ford, Xavier University
                Dayna Dion, Ogilvy & Mather
               Casey Conway, Ogilvy & Mather
                 Jeremy Katz, KatzInk, LLC
The Modern American Dream
What defines today’s American Dream and those who pursue it




                      August 2011




           Michael Ford, Xavier University
            Dayna Dion, Ogilvy & Mather
           Casey Conway, Ogilvy & Mather
             Jeremy Katz, KatzInk, LLC




 Commissioned by American Family Mutual Insurance Company
Table of Contents




Foreword                           3

Introduction                       7

The State of the American Dream   10

Evolution of the American Dream   11

Dream Inhibitors                  14

Dream Drivers                     16

What Makes Dreamers Different     18

What Dreams Are Worth             21

Why Dreaming Matters              23

Conclusion                        26

About the Study                   28




2
Foreword
Michael F. Ford
Founding Director
The Center for the Study of the American Dream
Xavier University




                                                 3
    “It has been reported that I was dead ... the report was greatly exaggerated ... When you hear it, don’t you
    believe it. And don’t take the trouble to deny it. Merely just raise the American flag on our house in Hartford
    and let it talk.”
    — Mark Twain, letter to Frank E. Bliss, 11/4/1897

    Reports in the media that the American Dream is dead are likewise greatly exaggerated. This
    American Family Insurance study confirms the welcomed idea that the American Dream
    endures in the psyches, hopes and character of Americans all over the nation, despite a
    confluence of events seemingly aligning against it. The survey indicates that 90 percent of us
    believe in the American Dream, but, importantly, it also shows that 88 percent of us believe
    that the Dream is in serious need of “reinterpretation.”

    That gentle word, “reinterpretation,” understates the current need.

    Perhaps “reassertion” is a better term because the Americans already reinterpret the Dream
    regularly and persistently. The American Dream is clearly evolving — as it always has — but
    the key to understanding it is that at its heart, the Dream remains defiantly aspirational and
    always connected to improvement. In any of its iterations, the glittering core of the Dream is
    the determination to make a better life for our families and for ourselves.

    Specifics of the Dream change over time and sometimes these changes occur in bursts
    commensurate with the needs of the times. Today — right now — we are due for such a
    burst. Our tumultuous times demand a reassertion of the power of possibility that is the
    essence of the American Dream. The American people, as this report shows, keenly feel this
    need.

    We find that the evolution of today’s Dream has turned it from the old “one size fits all”
    dreams of things like home ownership and other material ambitions to individual and
    personal terms. Old institutions are no longer fully trusted, but the Dream endures through
    individual reliance, family support and the input of a small circle of trusted resources.
    Today’s Dreamers see the one-size-fits-all concept as “the American Dream of my parents’
    generation.” Time passed. A museum piece.

    A famous philosopher once said that “Love never is — it is always becoming.” And so it is
    with the American Dream. Its nature is always to be in the process of becoming something
    better. Fundamental to the Dream is the commitment we feel to pass on this process of
    betterment to each new generation of dreamers — to our children and their children and
    their children.

    This requires vision, opportunity and the confidence to stretch for it. Americans have their
    visions. They make their own opportunities. What they lack today is confidence. Confidence
    cannot endure without trust, and the infrastructure of trust is shaky right now. Every

4
generation of Americans must work to overcome this natural uncertainty. We always have.

We know from this research that American Dreamers are doers who take leaps of faith and
overcome their concerns. They wind up with fewer regrets because of it. They are healthier
and happier. People who pursue dreams are the ones who take control of what they can
in life rather than being concerned about the things they cannot. The legendary idea that
Americans are “can do” people comes from exactly this strength. And it is this confidence
and willingness to try that needs reassertion.

The issues surrounding the American Dream, including those raised in this important study,
attracted our interest at the Center for the Study of the American Dream because this is
the foundation of our work. We trust the integrity of the data and support the commitment
of both Ogilvy and American Family Insurance in this project. A public discussion of these
issues could not come at a more appropriate time in our economic and aspirational lives.
Our moment demands the alignment of our Dreams with our reality. That is the direction
of this study.




                                                                                             5
6
Introduction
Dayna Dion
Cultural Strategy Director
Ogilvy & Mather Chicago




                             7
    “Is the American Dream dead?” That is the question of the hour. It is the topic of discussion
    and debate in town hall meetings across the nation and the subject of countless headlines. Ask
    Google, and you’ll get nearly half a million search results. It’s one of the big questions facing
    our nation, and finding the answer is what motivated American Family Insurance to conduct
    its nationwide “Modern American Dream” study.

    According to our study results, the American Dream is not dead — not quite, anyway. The
    vast majority of Americans consider the American Dream alive, but comatose or barely
    breathing. Its vitality suffered during the recent financial crisis. And its future hangs in the
    balance. But we want to see it survive. Nearly 9 in 10 of us agree that the American Dream
    is worth protecting and pursuing — but not the American Dream of decades past. Our
    findings indicate that while most of us feel the American Dream remains a fundamental
    part of our national identity, we also feel it’s in need of fundamental change. A wake-up call.
    Modernization. Metamorphosis.

    So perhaps the more pertinent question today is, “What will replace the old American Dream?”

    Our study shows that the American Dream is no longer synonymous with home ownership,
    as it has been for decades. The Dream is evolving from a one-size-fits-all vision rooted in the
    collective pursuit of material ambitions to a colorful montage of individual dreams, marked by
    a desire to define success on our own terms, to pursue our personal passions and, ultimately,
    to control our own destinies. The American Dream is now a collection of individual dreams.
    Nearly three-quarters of Americans now say that they have “lots of little dreams” versus “one
    big dream.” But they’re not scattered. A majority say they are “focused dreamers” who fix
    their attention on one dream at a time versus “scattered dreamers” who always move from one
    dream to the next.

    Americans may now have many dreams, but that doesn’t mean that they’re pursuing them.
    While 9 in 10 Americans report that they still believe in the American Dream, and 8 in 10 say
    that they have a dream, fewer than half are actively pursuing their dream. Yes, the economy
    conspires against our dreams, but the gap between belief in the American Dream and pursuit
    of it can’t be chalked up to economics alone, especially given that we found Americans living
    in some of the most economically depressed areas of the country are the most likely to pursue
    their dreams.

    The American Dream is now wide open to interpretation, and that may be holding dreamers
    back. Choice that feels liberating to some can be daunting — even paralyzing — to others.
    There’s no detailed roadmap or step-by-step guide for pursuing today’s American Dream. It’s
    no longer, “Save Money. Secure Mortgage. Buy House.” Pursuing the American Dream today
    often requires traveling a less predictable and sometimes more treacherous path. As one of our
    research participants put it, pursuing the American Dream today is like “doing a tightrope act
    without the safety net.”

8
But in true entrepreneurial form, Americans are forging ahead — albeit cautiously. Most
Americans pursuing a dream report that they’re taking small, safe steps versus big, risky leaps.
But they’re moving forward, nonetheless, pursuing their own versions of the American Dream.
And they’re better off because of it, in more ways than one.

We learned that people who pursue dreams are happier and healthier than those who don’t.
They have better work lives and better love lives. They’re in better shape and in better spirits.
And, ultimately, they achieve more dreams. There is a link between dream pursuit and
personal prosperity in America, which this study was the first to explore.

In many respects, we’re not seeing the birth of a new American Dream. We’re witnessing the
rebirth of the original American Dream that James Truslow Adams coined and described
in his 1931 novel, The Epic of America. The American Dream is “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,” he wrote. “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely,
but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the
fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they
are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

Indeed, more Americans define today’s American Dream in terms of the principles of
freedom and opportunity upon which it was founded than in terms of striking it rich. As one
of our survey respondents expressed, “The American Dream is the ability to pursue whatever
you want … and the only obstacles we have are the ones we set on ourselves.”




                                                                                                    9
The State of the American Dream
The American Dream is alive, but not well. It’s in need of reinterpretation and reinvigoration.

The American Dream lives on, in defiance of the “Great Recession” and in contradiction
to a string of obituaries mourning, or mocking, its loss. “The American Dream is dead for a
majority of Americans,” finance expert Suze Orman said earlier this year. “American Dream
dead,” declared a New York Post headline. “The last vestige of the American Dream slipped
away,” satirical news network The Onion reported in its March 2011 broadcast on Edward
Tuffy, the nation’s “final believer.”

Mr. Tuffy is actually far from the final believer in the American Dream. More than three-
quarters of Americans, 77 percent, say that they believe in the American Dream. But the
same percentage feels that it’s in need of a serious wake-up call. It’s alive, but hanging on for
dear life.

93 percent of Americans say that the American Dream is alive, but 70 percent of them say
that it’s “comatose” or “barely breathing.” Yes, the recent financial crisis hurt the American
Dream. But it didn’t kill it. While nearly 6 in 10 Americans say that their dreams tanked or
took a beating during the most recent recession, 64 percent of them are still actively pursuing
their dreams, and 58 percent of them say that they are more committed to their dreams
today than they were five years ago.

This reflects the fact that the vast majority of Americans want to see the American Dream
survive. More than 8 in 10 Americans say that the American Dream needs to get back on the
priority list — though not the Dream of decades past. While 88 percent of Americans say
that the American Dream is worth protecting and pursuing, nearly two-thirds believe that it’s
in need of some serious reinterpretation.




       88              %
      say the American Dream is
                                           77               %
                                        say the American Dream needs
                                                                                 65               %
                                                                                   believe the American
     worth protecting and pursuing              a wake-up call                   Dream needs some serious
                                                                                      reinterpretation




10
Evolution of the American Dream
Today’s dreams are individual versus one-size-fits-all, and
marked by a desire for outward versus upward mobility.

More than 8 in 10 Americans say that the American Dream is changing. It doesn’t look or
feel like the American Dream of their parents’ generation. It’s “an individual dream that
everyone defines differently” versus a “one-size-fits-all dream that is the same for everyone.”



                              The American Dream of my              My generation’s
                               parents’ generation was:            American Dream is:

     One size fits all                    46%                            16%

        Individual                        54%                            84%



And Americans define today’s Dream more in terms of outward mobility — the freedom
to pursue their personal passions and define success on their own terms — than upward
mobility, living a better life than their parents.

What BEST characterized the American Dream of my parents’ generation:

57%      Home ownership
46%      Money in the bank
39%      Upward mobility (living a better life than my parents)


What BEST characterizes TODAY’S American Dream:

36%      Pursuing your passions
35%      Money in the bank
29%      Defining success on your own terms


Today’s American Dream is most characterized by pursuit, and pursuing a dream is
synonymous with living The Dream for a majority of Americans. More than three-quarters
of those in the midst of pursuing their dream also say that they’re living their dream. Living
the dream is no longer just living in a home — it’s living.



                                                                                             11
     Q: What does the American Dream mean to you? How do you define it?



                            “The freedom to
                            follow your own
                                 path.”

                                                                “Being able to pursue your course in
                                                                     life, on your own terms.”


                “Life, liberty and the
                pursuit of happiness.”



                                                                              “Success and
                                                                               prosperity.”
                                       “Leading the life
                                         you want.”




     Q: How has your American Dream changed in the past five years?
        What is different?


     “I think for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, the American Dream was more about security ... Now
     I think the American Dream has become a little bit more personalized, now you look at what you can do with
                your life and our generation is a little bit more willing to take risks to achieve happiness.”

      “I think people are deciding to determine their own dreams instead of accepting ones that are determined by
                                                      someone else.”

     “I think today’s dream is about being able to pursue one’s own version of success or happiness ... there are just
                                   so many versions of the American Dream now.”




12
Indeed, The American Dream has become a diverse collection of individual American
dreams. 88 percent of Americans now say that the American Dream needs to be personally
interpreted. And nearly three-quarters of Americans — 74 percent — now report that they
have “lots of little dreams” versus “one big dream.”

Home ownership used to be the “one big dream” — the defining characteristic of the
American Dream. While that is no longer so, Americans still aspire to financial success.
“Money in the bank” remains an important element of The American Dream, but it isn’t a
requirement for pursuing it.

Americans in some of the most economically depressed areas of the country are more
likely than those in wealthier regions to report that they are actively pursuing or living
their dreams. Southerners, for example, are least likely of all Americans to earn more than
$50,000 per year, yet they are most likely to report that they are living their dreams.

Xavier University’s second annual “State of the American Dream Survey” uncovered a
similar idea. Americans who earn the least, they found, tend to dream the most. “Our
research corroborates the counterintuitive observation that those who are in the more
troubled regions of the country are often those who have the most ardent belief in the
American Dream and the strongest commitment to actively pursuing it,” says Michael Ford,
founding director of Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream.

Ultimately, Americans report that what will most help them achieve their dreams today is
belief in themselves rather than financial resources. They are 29 percent more likely, in fact,
to say that “belief in myself ” will mobilize their dream pursuits than they are to say that
“funding” will. But belief in ourselves is precisely what we may lack at the moment.

There is a significant gap between belief in the American Dream and active pursuit of it.
While 90 percent of Americans report that they believe in the American Dream, only 45
percent are pursuing their dream. And a mere 14 percent of Americans are living their dream.



                                            but only                        and just



     90             %
          believe in the
                                     45             %
                                     are pursuing their dream
                                                                     14             %
                                                                      are living their dream
         American Dream




                                                                                               13
This gap isn’t due to a lack of American Dreams. Only 6 percent of Americans say that
they don’t have a dream. Only 1 percent say that they don’t want a dream. We are a
nation of dreamers. So, what gives?



Dream Inhibitors
Everyday life and insecurity hold us back from pursuing our dreams

30 percent of Americans report that they spend less time pursuing their dreams today
than they did five years ago. Nine percent of them admit that the time they used to spend
pursuing their dreams is now spent indulging in their vices, while seven percent report
that they’ve replaced their time spent dreaming with complaining about life. But the vast
majority, 81 percent, of those who spend less time pursuing their dreams today say it’s
because they’re simply trying to survive — regain footing on solid ground.

       “Life is difficult. I don’t dare to dream.”

       “I am just trying to make it day by day.”

       “Just trying to keep my job and not go into the hole financially.”

Other Americans are in the process of redefining or rebuilding their dreams. 57 percent
report that their dreams took a beating, or tanked, during the most recent recession. And a
majority of them now say, “I’m trying to figure out what my dream is.”

Yes, the Great Recession stalled and stifled some of our dreams. But Americans most
commonly report that they would spend more time pursuing their dreams if they weren’t
working or busy dealing with day-to-day life than if they earned more money. And only
4 in 10 Americans say that the economy is what most conspires against them achieving
their dreams. Nearly 1 in 10 blame their lot in life. 1 in 5 blame the government.
And 1 in 5 blame themselves.

       “I am my own worst enemy.”

       “I am afraid to take chances and confused about what I ultimately want.”

       “I’m scared to take the risks.”




14
                                                    Today’s American Dream has
Indeed, a fear of taking risks holds               the edge when it comes to being:
many of us back from pursuing our
dreams. Today’s American Dream may
be more open to interpretation and                            Individual



                                                         75            %
personalization than The Dream of
decades past, but it’s also considered
less attainable, affordable, practical and
protectable. More than three-quarters
of Americans feel that their children or
                                                             Customizable



                                                         76
future generations will have a harder
time achieving the American Dream.

Today’s dreams come in all different
                                                            %
shapes and sizes, and there is no clear,
well-marked road map for achieving
them. Pursuing an American Dream
                                                    The American Dream of my
today often entails navigating uncharted
                                                    parents’ generation has the
territory. Taking an indirect path.
                                                    edge when it comes to being:
Embarking on an insecure journey.
                                                              Affordable



                                                        70
      “I think [the American Dream] is very
      much alive. But I think the concept of
      following rigid rules to get you from A to
      B doesn’t apply anymore. I don’t know
                                                                       %
      what I’m doing. I’m making it up as I go
      along. I would love to find a mentor.”
                                                               Practical
      “I don’t have the courage or knowledge to
      achieve my dream.”

      “Doing this is like doing a tight rope act
      without the safety net ... having someone
                                                        68 %
                                                              Protectable



                                                        66 %
      help you map out the path across the tight
      rope would be a useful thing.”

In fact, help is a bit more than a useful
thing. It’s often necessary. A large part
of what determines whether people                             Attainable



                                                        58 %
pursue their dreams or not in today’s
environment is the number of “safety
nets” they have.



                                                                                      15
Dream Drivers
Our support and belief systems determine our likelihood to dream.

Today’s American Dream may be more individual in nature, but most American dreamers
don’t dream alone. More than 8 in 10 of those who pursue their dreams report that they
have some kind of support behind them — financial, emotional, or otherwise — while two-
thirds of those who aren’t pursuing their dreams say they don’t have support behind their
dreams.

Americans who pursue their dreams are 40 percent more likely than those who don’t to
say that their family or friends support their dreams, 145 percent more likely to say that
their employer supports their dreams and 52 percent more likely to say that an insurance
company protects their dreams.

Support from family, friends and institutions increases Americans’ likelihood to pursue their
dreams. But personal beliefs, behaviors and family history come into play as well.

People who believe in the American Dream are 84 percent more likely to pursue their individual dreams.




                  51             %
             of Americans who believe in the
                                                                        28              %
                                                                    of those who don’t believe in the
             Americn Dream actively pursue                          American Dream actively pursue
                      their dreams                                            their dreams


Americans who vocalize their dreams are also more likely to pursue them.


                                                                                  Nearly 6 in 10 of those who
                                                                                  share their dreams with others
                                                                                  say they’re actively pursuing
                                                                                  their dreams.


                                                                                  Fewer than 4 in 10 of those
                                                                                  who keep their dreams to
                                                                                  themselves say they’re actively
                                                                                  pursuing their dreams.

16
Americans who “inherit” dreams are more likely to pursue them.

People who saw their parents and grandparents achieve their dreams are significantly
more likely than those who didn’t to pursue their own dreams and champion their
children’s dreams:

“My grandparents achieved the American Dream”

Dreamers                                                                              64%

Non-Dreamers                                                          49%


“My parents achieved the American Dream”

Dreamers                                                                               65%

Non-Dreamers                                                          47%


“My parents paved the way for me to achieve my American Dream”

Dreamers                                                                                     71%

Non-Dreamers                                                    44%


“Encouraging my children to pursue their dreams is a priority I can’t afford to abandon”

Dreamers                                                                                  67%

Non-Dreamers                                                             53%


Note: Dreamers are those who report that they are pursuing or living their dream. Non-dreamers are those who report that they
don’t have or want a dream, or aren’t pursuing their dream.



Many forces determine who pursues their dreams and who simply ponders them:
the presence or absence of a support system; belief in the American Dream, or lack thereof;
a tendency to dream out loud or in silence; and a family’s history of dreaming. But perhaps
nothing influences a person’s likelihood to dream more than what’s inside of them —
intrinsic personality traits that transcend environmental and economic factors; this is the
stuff that dreams are made of.

                                                                                                                                17
                                               Dreamers see brighter futures
What Makes Dreamers
Different

                                               76        %
Dreamers see. Dreamers do. Dreamers persist.                     of those pursuing
                                                                 their dreams say their
People who pursue their dreams see                               future looks bright
and approach life differently than
those who do not. They certainly look


                                               28
                                                                 of those who aren’t
on the bright side of life. Americans
in pursuit of a dream are 50 percent              %              pursuing their dreams
                                                                 say their future looks
more likely than those who aren’t to
                                                                 bright
report that they’re more optimistic than
pessimistic. And they’re 167 percent
more likely to say that their futures look
                                                          Dreamers do
bright, which could explain why they’re
more focused on them.



                                               59
                                                                 of those pursuing
A majority of dream pursuers say that
they spend more time thinking about
                                                         %       their dreams say
                                                                 they are “doers” vs.
the future than dwelling on the past,                            “thinkers”
while a majority of those who aren’t



                                               52
pursuing their dreams say the opposite.                          of those who aren’t

But dreamers don’t just think about
                                                  %              pursuing their dreams
                                                                 say they are “thinkers”
their futures. They set goals to ensure                          vs. “doers”
the manifestation of their visions for
the future.
                                                Dreamers do more with age
Americans pursuing their dreams are 3
times more likely than those who aren’t
to set goals. And they’re significantly
more likely to take steps toward those
goals. For instance, dreamers are more                                         67%
than twice as likely as other Americans                         51%
to say that they are continuing their
educations or learning new skills to               41%
ensure their dreams come true.

Dreamers don’t just think. They do.
And they do more with age.
                                                  18–24        25–44           45+
                                                          Doers vs. Thinkers


18
Dreamers’ action-orientation reflects their spirit of entrepreneurship and sense of
spontaneity. Americans pursuing a dream are 29 percent more likely than those who aren’t
to describe themselves as spontaneous: Nearly three-quarters of those pursuing a dream
would say that they’re “spontaneous” versus slightly less than half of those not pursuing a
dream. And dream pursuers are more than twice as likely as other Americans to describe
themselves as “adventurous.” Dreamers jump and have faith that the net will appear. They
believe in learning through trial and error. And, win or lose, they’re less likely to say they
have a lot of regrets than people who aren’t pursuing their dreams — 55 percent less likely,
to be exact. They’d rather fail trying than not try at all.

      “I’m not a planner. I do things experimentally and if it doesn’t turn out, I start over again.”

      “If you’ve never failed at something, you’ve never really tried at anything. The end result is much
      more satisfying with trial and error than following a road map to success.”

While dream pursuers are action-oriented, they’re also a bit cautious. The vast majority
of American dreamers report that they take small, safe steps versus big, risky leaps toward
achieving their dreams.


                                 To achieve my dream, I most often take:




                     81               %
                        Small, safe steps
                                                              19               %
                                                                  Big, risky leaps




                    The top five steps dreamers take to ensure their dreams come true:

                         1. Saving money                               48%
                         2. Setting goals                              44%
                         3. Getting healthy/in shape                   40%
                         4. Mapping out a plan                         31%
                         5. Protecting my assets                       28%




                                                                                                            19
Americans in pursuit of a dream are more optimistic, future-focused and action-oriented
than those who aren’t, but what may distinguish American dreamers most is their outlook on
dreaming itself.

First, and perhaps most important, Americans who pursue their dreams believe that they’re
entitled to. They are 62 percent more likely than Americans who aren’t pursuing their dreams
to say that pursuing a dream is for everyone versus a select few.

Dream-pursuing Americans are also 57 percent more likely than those who aren’t to see
pursuing a dream as a wise use of time versus a futile endeavor. And they’re 45 percent more
likely to say dreams help us achieve what’s most important in life. But they’re not unrealistic —
they know that achieving their dreams will not come easy. More than 8 in 10 of them say that
achieving the American Dream has more to do with hard work than luck. Fewer than 6 in 10
of those not pursuing a dream say the same.

“Pursuing a dream is a wise use of time versus a waste of time”

Dreamers                                                                                                     86%

Non-Dreamers                                                             53%




“Pursuing a dream helps us achieve what’s most important in life versus distracts us from what’s
most important in life.”

Dreamers                                                                                                              93%

Non-Dreamers                                                                          64%




“Achieving the American Dream has more to do with hard work than luck”

Dreamers                                                                                                 82%


Non-Dreamers                                                                 56%


Note: Dreamers are those who report that they are pursuing or living their dream. Non-dreamers are those who report that they
don’t have or want a dream, or aren’t pursuing their dream.




20
What Dreams Are Worth
Americans’ dreams are among their most valuable assets.

Dream pursuers view dreams as more valuable than traditional status symbols like a big
house, flashy car or designer wardrobe. People who aren’t pursuing a dream, on the other
hand, see dreams as equally or less valuable than outward signs of wealth.



                           A majority of Americans pursuing      A majority of those not pursuing
                           their dreams say their dreams are     their dreams say their dreams are
                                 MORE valuable than:            EQUALLY or LESS valuable than:


        A big house                     55%                                    65%

        A flashy car                    62%                                    54%

      A fancy job title                 60%                                    54%

   A designer wardrobe                  62%                                    53%




Women and men also differ in regard to how they view and value their dreams. Female
dream pursuers are significantly more likely than male dream pursuers to value their dreams
just as much as they value their health, happiness, sleep and sanity.




                                        My dreams are equally as valuable as my:

                          Health            Happiness               Sleep               Sanity


                          52%                55%                   52%                 54%


                          34%                40%                   36%                 37%

                                                                                                     21
Dream pursuers value and prioritize their dreams more with age. The older we get, the more
likely we are to consider our dreams necessities that we can’t afford not to pursue:


“A dream is a necessity”


25–34                                                                            68%

35–44                                                                                    74%


45–54                                                                                         80%

55+                                                                                                  87%




“A dream is a priority I can’t afford to abandon”


25–34                                                                                  73%

35–44                                                                                      77%


45–54                                                                                              84%

55+                                                                                                        91%



Ultimately, three-quarters of Americans say that a dream is the most important thing that
their family can have. Still, many don’t take measures to protect their dreams.

                      “You get too busy trying to run the business to worry if it’s going to be there tomorrow.”


                “I am financially protected, but I don’t know if it’s to the extent that I want to be. I don’t think how
                              much I value the business and how much I am protected are the same.”


               “There’s a huge gap between the amount that I value my dream and the amount that I protect it. I don’t
              protect it nearly as much but just because of a lack of knowledge ... I don’t have someone mentoring me.”



Yes, pursuing a dream involves some risk — but it also yields tremendous rewards.

22
Why Dreaming Matters
Americans engaged in pursuing their dreams are happier and healthier than those who aren’t.

24 percent of Americans report that they spend less time pursuing their dreams and more
time trying to survive today than they did five years ago. But Americans carving out even the
smallest slivers of time to pursue their dreams aren’t just surviving, they’re thriving.


They sleep more ...                                       ... and better
Americans pursuing their dreams are                       ... and they are 60 percent more
13 percent more likely than those who                     likely than those who aren’t to say
aren’t to report that they sleep at least                 they sleep through the night and
seven hours a night ...                                   wake up feeling rested.

They’re less stressed ...                                 ... and less depressed
Americans pursuing a dream are                            ... and they are 25 percent less
18 percent less likely than those who                     likely to say that they’re sometimes
aren’t to say they are very or somewhat                   or often depressed.
stressed these days ...

They move more ...                                        ... and weigh less
People engaged in pursuing their                          ... and they’re 32 percent less likely
dreams are 52 percent more likely than                    to report that they’re obese.
those who aren’t to exercise at least
once a week ...

They have better love lives ...                           ... and better sex lives
Americans in pursuit of their dreams                      ... and they’re 70 percent more
are 30 percent more likely than those                     likely to report that their sex lives
who aren’t to say they are in love, and                   are “good” or “amazing.”
25 percent more likely to say they’ve
found true love ...

They’re happier in their jobs                             ... and in their relationships
8 in 10 Americans who are pursuing                        ... and 6 in 10 who are pursuing a
a dream report that they like or love                     dream say they’re happy in their
what they do for a living versus nearly                   marriage versus 4 in 10 of those
6 in 10 of those who aren’t pursuing a                    not pursuing a dream.
dream ...



                                                                                                   23
They’re also healthier
Americans in pursuit of a dream are also far less likely than those who aren’t to report
that they suffer from health issues including anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia and
migraine headaches.



                                       Dream pursuers are:




               50             %
              less likely to report that
                                                         29             %
                                                       less likely to say they suffer
                 they have anxiety                   from headaches or migraines




               39             %
            less likely to say they suffer
                                                         25             %
                                                       less likely to say they have
                    from insomnia                          high blood pressure




       All things considered, 84 percent of Americans say
           they’re better off for pursuing their dreams.




24
25
Conclusion

The American Dream managed to survive the recent recession. But its vital signs remain
weak. Whether the American Dream thrives again depends on us — on our willingness to
reframe and re-imagine it.

For decades, we’ve focused on a single, material manifestation of the American Dream:
home ownership. Now that home ownership is in decline — at its lowest level since 1965,
according to the Census Bureau — many assume that the American Dream is dying, or at
least in a permanent vegetative state. Quite the contrary. The American Dream lives on in
our hearts and minds, in the 90 percent of us who still believe in it and in the 45 percent
of us who pursue our own version of it, despite the obstacles and odds. It is remarkably
resilient. But it has taken on new shape. The collective, one-size-fits-all version of the
American Dream has morphed and fragmented into a diverse set of individual American
dreams. Just because we’re not dreaming collectively, doesn’t mean we’re not dreaming.

“The American Dream lives on in individuals,” says Michael Ford. “It is our responsibility
as individuals to keep the dream going.” That’s a daunting prospect for many of us. It’s one
reason for the enormous gap between our belief in the American Dream and our pursuit of
it. We know we need to take personal ownership of the Dream — to define it for ourselves.
But we aren’t exactly sure how to do that. More than 1 in 3 of us say that we’re in the
process of figuring it out.

The road ahead is uncertain. “The American Dream has become a game of chance,”
Arianna Huffington recently said. Perhaps, but it doesn’t have to be. Pursuing a dream today
doesn’t mean betting the farm or the equivalent of cliff diving without a parachute.

The vast majority of Americans pursuing their dreams today aren’t doing so alone. They’re
leaning on family, friends and trusted institutions for support. They’re taking small, safe
steps versus big, risky leaps toward achieving their dreams. And reaping the rewards of their
pursuits. Our survey data shows that Americans pursuing their dreams are happier and
healthier than those who aren’t, regardless of whether or not they’ve achieved their dreams.

Part of what determines our likelihood to pursue our dreams is how we see the American
Dream. Americans taking steps toward their dreams define the American Dream as a
pursuit, rather than an achievement — an ongoing journey rather than a destination.
They’re willing to dream without the guarantee of success, without knowing whether there’s
a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But not without a plan and not without a safety net.
They’re saving money. Setting goals. Mapping out plans. Protecting their assets. They are
much more apt than Americans who are not pursuing their dreams to say that achieving
the American Dream has more to do with hard work than luck. So perhaps the American
Dream is a game of will, rather than a game of chance. Perhaps its vitality depends on the


26
strength of our appetite for pursuit and our willingness to pave our own ways. Perhaps it
depends not on a collective dream, but on our collective entrepreneurial spirit.

In many respects, the American Dream has come full circle. It was born out of a desire
for freedom — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And Americans are defining the
American Dream once more in terms of freedom — the ability to pursue their passions.
We asked Americans, “If the American Dream were officially declared dead and you could
only bring back one part of it, what would you bring back?” It isn’t home ownership. It’s
“The freedom to do what I want to do and be who I want to be.” We have the freedom,
perhaps more of it than ever, to define what the American Dream means for us as
individuals. The question for each of us is what will we do with it?




                                                                                            27
About the Study

American Family Mutual Insurance Company commissioned The Modern American
Dream study to explore what the American Dream means today, and what characterizes
those who pursue it. The company set out to investigate how the definition of the American
Dream has shifted amid the major economic, political and social change of late, and to
explore how the pursuit of dreams affects personal prosperity and well-being. The American
Family Insurance Company’s interest in studying the American Dream stems from its origin.
Herman Wittwer realized his American Dream when he opened the doors of Farmers
Mutual Automobile Insurance Company — now known as the American Family Mutual
Insurance Company — on October 3, 1927.

Study findings detailed in this report are based on a quantitative, online survey of 1,517
American adults age 18+, fielded from May 13–17, 2011 by MarketTools, Inc., a leading
market research company. The survey’s margin of sampling error at the 95 percent
confidence level was +/- 2.6 percentage points. MarketTools weighted the sample by age,
gender, education, income, ethnicity and geography to ensure national representation. The
survey contained no reference to the American Family Insurance brand and participants
were unaware of its sponsorship of the study.

Ogilvy & Mather managed the study with the expert consultation of Michael Ford, founding
director of Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream.

American Family Insurance also commissioned ethnographic research in three major
U.S. markets — Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle — to inform the content and design of its
quantitative study. The Ogilvy Discovery Group, a specialist ethnography group within
Ogilvy & Mather, conducted the research in May 2011.




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Commissioned by American Family Mutual Insurance Company

				
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