Chasing the American Dream Report

I have been reviewing this report today–in between dealing with students’ concerns and hiring new F/T faculty.  Most of the data seem to align with experiences and observations of 30 years in high education.

However, this particular graph made me pause:

What I find so intriguing is what seems a disparity between the two bars.  The bar on the left reflects responses concerning “general” sense of generational success.  Note that only 16% believe they will be generally more successful than the previous generation.

The bar on the right, however,looks specifically at “financial” success. Here, 48% (nearly half) reported that they believed they we would be MORE financially successful than their parents!

First, I would have thought that these reports would be aligned: either general AND financial success would surpass their parents OR both measure would fall short of their parents standard of living.  These data do not show this.

Secondly, given my impression of the general optimism–particularly those who voted in the 2008 election–I would have thought the data might show the opposite, e.g. generally MORE successful than previous generations; however, less financially successful.  These data do not show this.

I puzzle over what these data mean.  What I hear when I read this graph is students plan to earn more money, but less successful–generally–than their parents.  This reading seems contradictory!  If you have read the report, “Chasing the American Dream: Recent College Graduates and the Great Recession,” and you have some thoughts, PLEASE share with your comment below!  Help me understand these data!


Stone, C., Horn, C.V., and Zukin, C. “Chasing the American dream: recent college graduates and the great recession.” Rutgers University, May 2012. Recovered 10 May 2012.


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