What Does American Dream Mean in History?

The American Dream is a concept that has been deeply ingrained in the psyche of Americans since the country’s inception. It represents the belief that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination in the land of opportunity.

But what does the American Dream mean in history? Let’s take a closer look.

The Origins of the American Dream

The term “American Dream” was first coined by historian James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, “The Epic of America.” Adams defined the American Dream as “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.”

The Idea of Social Mobility

At its core, the American Dream is about social mobility. It is based on the idea that anyone can climb the social ladder and achieve a better life than their parents or grandparents before them. This idea has been central to American culture since colonial times when people came to America seeking religious freedom, economic opportunity, and a better life.

The Importance of Hard Work

One of the key elements of the American Dream is hard work. Americans believe that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you want. This belief was reinforced during the Industrial Revolution when people worked long hours in factories to achieve success.

Challenges to Achieving the American Dream

While the concept of the American Dream has remained popular throughout history, achieving it has not always been easy. One major challenge has been discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, and religion. For much of American history, these groups faced significant barriers to achieving success.

Income Inequality

Another challenge is income inequality. Despite efforts to create a more equal society through policies like progressive taxation and social welfare programs like Medicaid and Medicare, income inequality remains a significant problem in the United States.

The Future of the American Dream

In recent years, there has been growing concern that the American Dream is no longer achievable for many people. Income inequality, rising costs of education and healthcare, and a lack of well-paying jobs have made it more difficult for people to achieve financial security and upward mobility.

The Importance of Education

One solution to these challenges is education. Education is often seen as the key to achieving success in America. By investing in education, individuals can gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s economy.

The Role of Government

Another solution is government action. Policies like raising the minimum wage, expanding access to healthcare, and investing in infrastructure can help create an environment where people have more opportunities to succeed.


The American Dream has been a powerful force throughout American history, inspiring generations of Americans to strive for success and prosperity. While there are challenges to achieving this dream, solutions like education and government action can help ensure that it remains within reach for all Americans.