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Philip Alston on the American dream versus American illusion

The American dream has always played a very important part in America’s self perception.

It is still very much alive and well, in the sense that a lot of the people that I met who were

really down and out, still believed that they could drag themselves up through their

own efforts, if only they could work hard enough, if only they could get enough jobs.

The reality, unfortunately, is very much against them.

The United States has now become the least socially mobile country out of all of the

rich countries in the world.

So, Americans are accustomed to looking at the British, or the French, and whoever and

saying, “Well of course you have classes, you’ll never escape those classes.

The reality now in the United States is if you are born and live in a certain zip code,

you will probably forever be linked to that income level.

So if you’re born poor, you wouldn’t escape it.

You’ll get bad education, you’ll get bad child care, you’ll get bad nutrition, and

you’ll end up with bad schooling and a bad job.

If the opposite, you live in a wealthy zip code, you’ll get a good education, you'll get good

health care, and you’ll get a good job.

But, the American dream has become the American illusion in too many respects.