5.13.2008

Do Blacks still believe in the American Dream?

National News
Do Blacks still believe in the American Dream?
By Jesse Muhammad
Staff Writer


(FinalCall.com) - “What is the American Dream for a Black man like me?” asked Robert Jones, a single father of three sons living in the projects in Southwest Houston. “My friends and I only see hard times on a daily basis, bills stacking up and those who have so-called made it, don’t even offer us a hand. We are the have-nots, so the American Dream to us is only achieved by watching the latest television show.”

Contrary to the stance of Mr. Jones, a recent study released by MetLife found most Black respondents believed it was possible to achieve the American Dream in their lifetimes. According to data collected from 800 online surveys, Americans are concerned about the U.S. economy with 94 percent of Blacks saying the nation is headed in the wrong direction, up dramatically from 71 percent just one year ago.

Despite the current tightening economic environment, nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) of Blacks surveyed felt the dream is within reach, slightly ahead of the overall U.S. population (74 percent).

This was the second in a series of studies about what people think about the American Dream. The first survey was taken in 2006 and over two years there has been an eight percentage point increase in the number of Blacks who say they have achieved the American Dream.

What is the American Dream? MetLife said Americans generally define the American Dream as financial security, family and freedom from want. Blacks were more likely than others to include a comfortable retirement and successful career when defining the American Dream, MetLife said.

“Even as the U.S. economy slows, African Americans aren’t willing to have their dreams disrupted,” said Tunde Ogunlana, a MetLife financial advisor. “Over the past year, more African Americans believe they have achieved the American Dream. At the same time, I see my clients who are still trying to achieve the dream forging ahead with hard work and self-reliance.”

Out of the 800 online surveys taken among the general population, 124 respondents were Black. Ninety-six percent of Black participants felt Americans were working as hard or harder than ever just to get by. There was a growing concern among Blacks about the rising cost and accessibility of life’s basics, with approximately 74 percent saying they feel the bar is rising in terms of obtaining the basic necessities of life. Less than half (48 percent) felt they are working harder than their parents to achieve the American dream.

The MetLife study noted that confidence in the economy has been shaken by energy costs, oil and gas prices, national health care costs, the national budget deficit, high personal debt levels, the dismal outlook for social security, low wages in the U.S., and the unemployment rate.

The study noted more than 60 percent of Blacks are frustrated that they can no longer count on employer-sponsored programs such as health care and pension plans. However, many don’t plan to turn to their employer but plan to do something for themselves. Six in 10 plan to create their own safety net. Sixty-one percent confidently believed their personal financial situation would be better in the future.

Over 150 of those surveyed were apart of Generation Y, Americans ages 14-31. Teen entrepreneur Keith J. Davis Jr. tours high schools to let his peers know “the day of waiting for a handout is over. Our parents used to be able to work for the same company for decades and then be able to retire comfortably. That is no more. Our generation has to have a different mindset. Be independent thinkers, go- getters and achieve dreams that go beyond this country.”