Monday, March 26, 2012

Is Diversity Exempt from Recovery?

As our economy slowly churns forward and confidence seems to be growing, it appears that our views towards diversity are not moving along the same growth path.  Over the past 7 months, the American Dream Diversity Index has fallen nearly 2 full points.  That is, we have moved almost 2 percentage points away from fully achieving the Dream of Diversity.  For the ADCI, we measure diversity as the attitudes toward the assimilation of differences in one’s community.  More specifically, we look at:
·       The acceptance of diversity in one’s neighborhood
·       The acceptance of different personal and social ideates (i.e. sexual orientation and religious practice)
·       The extent of exposure to diverse cultural experiences
·       The satisfaction with the ability to vote freely and make political choices.
The good news is that the American Dream Diversity Index is the highest valued Index among all American Dream Indices.  The bad news is that all four areas of diversity are slowly degrading.  This begs the question:  Is diversity exempt from recovery?
Over the coming months, the ADCI team will be following this forming trend and report its findings. Visit the ADCI web site for more details.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What the American Dream Means

In recent years, countries are grappling with the question of how to measure national well-being. The governments of The United Kingdom, France, and Canada, for instance, are trying to understand what aspects are relevant for measuring national well-being.  Well, the answer can be found in the American Dream Composite Index (ADCI).  The ADCI provides a comprehensive look at five broad categories – economic, personal well-being, societal, diversity, and environment.  Taken together, these five categories measure how the nation is performing taking into account all the important and relevant aspects of one’s life.  The ADCI is, in effect, the national well-being index for the U.S. So, how are we doing?  Well, the ADCI has been hovering around 63 on a scale from zero to 100.  This means that, as a nation, we are 37% away from fully realizing complete satisfaction with every aspect of our lives.

Monday, March 5, 2012

By My Bootstraps

We often hear that the American Dream is being able to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make a better life for yourself.  This idea comes from the writings of James Truslow Adams in his work The Epic of America.  In this, he writes that 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….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”

This concept still resonates today and is captured in the American Dream Composite Index as the Fruits of My Labor where it is measured as the extent to which one is rewarded fairly for efforts in life.  Interestingly, it exists as part of our overall personal well-being.  As a significant dimension of the America Dream, it exists as one of its strongest cornerstones.  For February 2012, this dimension was measure at 68.1.  That is, we are 68.1% of the way to fully reaping the benefits of the fruits of our labor, on average.   Not bad, but what’s missing?  Why are we not getting what we feel we deserve? 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where You Live Affects Your Generational Progress

Generational progress, the feeling that one has a better life than the previous generation, is a significant component of the American Dream. This is a major goal for immigrants as they move to the United States. They want their children to live a better life with more opportunities than they had.

Studies have shown that generational mobility is affected by parental skill and earnings. But does ethnicity also play a role in upward generational mobility? Today, as well as in the past, many people immigrating to the U.S. associate themselves with a particular ethnic group.  Upon entering the country, many people choose to live with and among those with whom they share the same ethnicity or race.  Do such ethnic associations and affiliations affect generational mobility? Recent research suggests that they do.  

A critical finding indicates that the average skills of the ethnic group in the parent’s generation play a large role in the degree of generational mobility realized by children.  Generational income mobility, for instance, will depend not only on parental earnings but also on the mean earnings of the ethic group in the parent’s generation.  This finding has many important implications, not the least of which is that such “ethnic spillover effects” will likely hinder generational progress for relatively disadvantaged ethnic groups.  Although we all may dream of generational improvement for our children, this may not happen for everyone.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Would Your Dad Be Proud You're Better Off?

One of the cornerstones of the American Dream is the notion that the future generations will be better off compared to the current generation. If this were in fact true, then I should be better off compared to my parents, right?  The dimension of ‘Generational Progress’ in the American Dream Composite Index (ADCI) does exactly this.  The most recent survey of the American Dream Composite Index (ADCI) from the month of February shows that the level of satisfaction with Generational Progress was approximately 59 (on a scale of 0 to 100).  We are, therefore, approximately 41% away from complete satisfaction with generational progress.  It should not come as a surprise that the level of one’s education impacts our notion of Generational Progress.  People that have at least a college degree score 63 compared to a score of 52 for people that have at most a high school degree.  So, education turns out to be an important factor that impacts our level of satisfaction with Generational Progress and, ultimately, with the American Dream.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Talkin’ Bout My Generation"

The Who belt out the classic phrase “Talkin’ Bout My Generation” 16 times in their unforgettable song “My Generation”.  In the song, it seems that they are crying out to those who don’t look fondly upon their generation’s lifestyle and attitude.  They just want to say that no generation is better or worse than another.  However, when someone is asked about one generation to another as it pertains to the American Dream, it is quite clear that each generation wants the next to do better.  But, what is better?

Well, it makes sense that among many things people want their children to acquire better educations and have higher incomes.   This seems to be a prevailing thought.  But, as a composite picture, what does the current state of Generational Progress look like in the United States?  That is, looking at folks living in the United States today, are THEY doing better in general than THEIR PARENTS?  Well, the American Dream Composite IndexTM gives you this information each month.

In fact, our February 2012 results say…somewhat.  I know that seems a bit discouraging. But, when “Talkin’ Bout My Generation”, we’re almost 60% of the way to be fully surpassing the previous generation.  Not bad, but we’ve got some work to do!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Access to Education Gap Grows

ADCI data reveal a consistent association between accesses to education and income:  access to education increases with income.  The troubling part of this finding is that low-income students are not receiving the education they need and desire.  While there will always be private schools that only the wealthy can afford, our society values a public education system where income is not a deciding factor as far as who gets to attend school and who does not.  Coming to the realization that such a system does not yet exist – despite the best efforts of America’s educators – can be disheartening.  Let’s take a closer look at this dilemma.

The finding that access to education increases/decreases with/without income is largely corroborated by a 2011 study by the US Department of Education.  The study states, among other things, that too many children in our country are denied the educational opportunities they need to succeed and that this is especially true for children from low-income families.  One interesting finding from the study noted that schools serving low-income students were significantly more likely to have teachers with less experience compared with those schools serving higher-income students.  Similarly, schools serving low-income children were significantly less likely to offer pre-kindergarten or other early learning programs compared with schools serving higher-income children.

In response to such findings, many politicians have reiterated the federal government’s critical role in ensuring equal education for all students.  Some lawmakers are calling for reform in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Ultimately, the solution to this problem will be intricate and challenging.  Despite missing the mark in terms of delivering equal educational access and opportunity to all, we as a society must keep striving to attain this critical component of the American Dream.  Our future as a nation depends on it!