What take-out food reveals about US history

Posted July 28th, 2016 at 12:54 pm (UTC-5)
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Chuck Hammers, owner of Pizza My Heart, in one of his shops in San Jose, California on March 28, 2016. (AP Photo)

Chuck Hammers, owner of Pizza My Heart, in one of his shops in San Jose, California on March 28, 2016. (AP Photo)

From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food can tell us plenty about American history because what we eat and how we eat it, often reflects the changes taking place in society at any particular time.

“You can learn a lot from food,” says Emelyn Rude, a food historian and author of Tastes Like Chicken. “Everyone eats and it’s one of those unique ways in which agriculture, science, health, nutrition and culture all comes together in one single plate.”

Take pizza, for example. Americans were initially suspicious of dishes favored by Italian immigrants, in part because some of the ingredients were foreign to them.

“For the longest time, Italian food was looked at by most non-Italian Americans as something inferior,” says Krishnendu Ray, a professor of food studies at New York University. “In fact, nutritionists and social workers were endlessly complaining about how Italians eat such terrible food, such spicy food, which gives them a craving for alcohol, which is presumably a problem.”

Fast forward to after World War II, when American soldiers returned from Europe raving about the Italian food they’d eaten there. Once a box was invented — in the 1940s — to keep pizza hot, the flat, round cheesy pie was on its way to becoming a staple in the U.S. diet. Today, 1-in-8 Americans eats pizza on any given day.

African-American patrons outside of an eatery in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, 1939. (Library of Congress)

African-American patrons outside of an eatery in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, 1939. (Library of Congress)

Take-out food can also teach us about the darker periods in American history.

“In the South, it was common to see current and former slaves vending food on the side of the road,” says Rude. “Masters would allow their slaves to go out and sell food on the side of the road…so this was a very common occurrence and people knew if you wanted the tastiest food, you’d go find the American-American vendors. And its largely because there’s no other opportunity. They couldn’t work in shops, they couldn’t set up, really, their own enterprises, but being a street-side vendor was something that was available to them.”

African-Americans not only sold take-out food — fried chicken was a popular offering — they were also among the first consumers of it.

Jim Crow laws, enacted by Southern states from the 1880s until the mid 1960s, legalized segregation between blacks and whites. If African-Americans wanted to eat at a particular restaurant that didn’t have a designated section for people of color, they’d go around back and see if the restaurants would give them food to go.

In 1849, during the California Gold Rush, enterprising Chinese food entrepreneurs set up near where the forty-niners were searching for gold. As Rude says, the fortune hunters didn’t make any money, but the people who fed them did. One of the first American restaurants to offer food delivery is believed to be a San Francisco Chinese eatery that began offering the service in the 1920s.

Everything changed for restaurants when their Number 1 enemy — television — was invented and, by the 1950s, had infiltrated millions of American homes.

Almost overnight, people became more interested in staying home and watching TV, rather than going out to eat. When restaurants experienced a dramatic drop in sales, they knew it was time to adapt or die.

Television became Public Enemy Number 1 for American restaurants as more people opted to stay home in the 1950s. (Photo by Paul Townsend via Creative Commons license)

Television became Public Enemy Number 1 for American restaurants as more people opted to stay home in the 1950s. (Photo by Paul Townsend via Creative Commons license)

“They all started developing these take-home menus and delivery,” Rude says, “just so people wouldn’t have to leave their homes. They could do both: eat restaurant food and watch television.”

Then, once everyone had cars, fast food became the next big thing.

“The car really revolutionized how everyone eats because we could get food conveniently, we could get it super cheaply,” Rude says. “And so, yes, we owe fast food to cars.”

Today, roughly 6 percent of Americans eat take-out food on any given day. For the first time in U.S. history, restaurant spending is higher than grocery spending for the average American.

The internet age has given more obscure restaurants increased exposure and access to potential patrons who might not have found them otherwise, but the actual food consumed hasn’t changed much. The most popular food ordered via apps or the mobile internet is — you guessed it — pizza.

 

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Tennessee Pyramid Brings Outdoors Inside

Posted May 27th, 2016 at 1:52 pm (UTC-5)
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Bass Pro Shops has drawn roughly 3 million visitors to its Pyramid complex of restaurants, retail stores, ‘cypress swamp’ and other attractions, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Bass Pro Shops has drawn roughly 3 million visitors to its Pyramid complex of restaurants, retail stores, ‘cypress swamp’ and other attractions, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Online retail sales in the U.S. keep rising, reaching nearly $93 billion in the year’s first quarter, as the Department of Commerce reported this month. Their annual growth has outpaced that of in-store retail by a rate of at least 15 percent to 3 percent since 2010, Marketplace reports.

But consumers sometimes want an immersive shopping experience. Keyboard clicks can’t deliver the sweet immediacy of a fudge sample, the rousing “ack-ack” of a duck call or the thrill of a free-standing elevator rocketing up 28 stories to a restaurant and river-view observation deck.

Those are among the options at Bass Pro Shops’ Outdoor World at the Pyramid, a massive specialty store on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee. The Southern city is better known for Elvis Presley’s Graceland and bluesy Beale Street.

Not exactly a souk by the Nile, this riverside pyramid nonetheless holds a bounty of attractions for outdoor enthusiasts or wanna-bes. Merchandise ranges from hip boots to camouflage-upholstered recliners to Beretta firearms to bass boats lining lagoons where trout swim. There are live alligators, stuffed grizzlies, restaurants, a hotel, bowling alley and Ducks Unlimited Heritage Center.

Bass Pro Shops has drawn roughly 3 million visitors to its Pyramid complex of restaurants, retail stores, ‘cypress swamp’ and other attractions, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Bass Pro Shops has drawn roughly 3 million visitors to its Pyramid complex of restaurants, retail stores, ‘cypress swamp’ and other attractions, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

The stand-alone site, part of a chain headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, falls in the category of destination shopping. It’s not on the scale of Minnesota’s Mall of America or Dubai’s Mall of Emirates, which represent numerous retailers and draw international crowds. Instead, it’s comparable to Cabela’s, another U.S. chain specializing in outdoor equipment, or Ohio grocer Jungle Jim’s International  Market, both with a singular focus and at least regional appeal.

“Somebody would make a concerted effort to get there,” explains Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). He added, “This is a niche component within the industry.”

Bass Pro Shops launched Outdoor World in April 2015 in the Pyramid, a giant structure that opened in 1991 as a sports and entertainment complex but sat vacant from 2004. The company got tax breaks from Memphis to redevelop the site.

In its first year, it drew 3 million people from all 50 states and at least a dozen countries, manager David Hagel said.

Chris Horsley of Texarkana, Texas, watches his children take aim at the shooting gallery in Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, a retail center in Memphis, Tennessee. From left are Jordana, Christa, Corbin and Mason. (C. Guensburg/VOA)

Chris Horsley of Texarkana, Texas, watches his children take aim at the shooting gallery in Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, a retail center in Memphis, Tennessee. From left are Jordana, Christa, Corbin and Mason. (C. Guensburg/VOA)

Spectacle and sales bring people in

Chris Horsley and Emily Haaland brought their four children from Texarkana, Texas, testing their skills at the Bass Pro shooting arcade and later taking the elevator – at $10 for adults and $5 for kids – to The Lookout restaurant. “It’s a little vacation,” Haaland said during their [February] visit.

Cody Cox of Paragould, Arkansas, drove two hours with a couple of buddies, lured by a sale on outdoor sporting equipment. He left with a Rich N Tone duck call. His pal Joe Whitman found a carbon rod and reel marked at half price.

Sites like Outdoor World are likely to get repeat business, though infrequent, Tron said. But customers “spend significantly more time and money because of the effort to get there.”

To draw crowds, Bass Pro Shops also organizes special events, such as the World’s Hunting and Waterfowl Expo last October or the upcoming U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship in July.

They can stay at the elegantly rustic Big Cypress Lodge, with some “treetop” cabins and 103 rooms. Many have porches, and rockers, overlooking the surreal landscape of fake 100-foot cypress trees in an eerie twilight. At least lodgers don’t need sunscreen or bug spray.

Perhaps the biggest hit has been the ground-floor General Store. As of late April, its fudge counter had dispensed 27 tons of fudge.

Carol Guensburg
Carol Guensburg is a Washington-based VOA writer and editor. Contact her at cguensburg@voanews.com.

When Can Older Americans Expect to Retire? Maybe Never

Posted May 11th, 2016 at 3:25 pm (UTC-5)
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FILE -- A relaxing retirement might not be achievable for many Americans. (AP Photo)

FILE — A relaxing retirement might not be achievable for all Americans. (AP Photo)

Both of the leading presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, 68, and Donald Trump, 69, are pushing 70, an age when most Americans traditionally contemplate retirement, rather than seek one of the world’s most stressful and demanding jobs.

But Clinton and Trump could be on to something. More than half of older Americans are expected to keep working past the traditional retirement age of 65, according to a recent survey. The reasons vary: some can’t afford to retire while others prefer to stay active.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates and Projections/US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates and Projections/US Department of Health and Human Services

As the baby boomers — people born between 1946 and 1964, who are currently between 52 and 70 years old — begin to reach age 65, the United States’ general population will have more older people than ever before.

The 65-and-older crowd jumped from 35.5 million in 2002, to 43.1 million in 2012, an increase of 21 percent. That number is expected to more than double by 2060, to 92 million. By 2040, there will be twice as many older people living in America than there were in 2000.

The survey included interviews with 1,075 people who were age 50 and older. One-fourth of the older workers said they never plan to retire, and that’s truer among low-income earners than high earners. Thirty-three percent of people earning less than $50,000 a year said they’ll keep working indefinitely, while 20 percent of those with salaries over $100,000 said they’ll never retire.

Sixty percent of people aged 50 to 64 said they expect to work past their 65th birthday. More than half of those who are already older than 65 said they plan to keep working, too. However, many of these older workers are putting in fewer hours, an average of 31 per week.

Being older doesn’t necessarily mean these employees are complacent. A majority of older workers — especially those who are 65 and older — plan to switch employers, or move into an entirely new profession, as they head off into the twilight years.

 

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Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

Posted May 6th, 2016 at 3:11 pm (UTC-5)
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Members of Generation Z pose for a homecoming photo.

Members of Generation Z pose for a homecoming photo.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about millennials overtaking baby boomers to become the largest living generation. Millennials — people born between 1981 to 1997 — are the best educated and most diverse generation to date. They might also be a bridge to the future.

“The millennials are a transition between a white America into one that’s a much more globalized, diverse America and so I think that’s going to be a signature part of the generation coming forward,” said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution author of Diversity Explosion.

The iGeneration, also known as Generation Z, are people who were born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s , the eldest of whom are about 20 years old. It’s the first American generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand.

Graphic from “Meet Generation Z” Northeastern University

Graphic from “Meet Generation Z” Northeastern University

Not surprisingly, advertisers are rushing to figure this new generation out. A 2014 report found these young people want “information on demand” and tend to trust the opinions of friends or strangers, who share their views on social media platforms, over authority figures and organizations. The iGens also turn to social media to learn about a product before buying it.

A study from Northeastern University found that members of Generation Z have a strong entrepreneurial streak and are anxious to map out their own futures. Forty-two percent envision working for themselves rather than for someone else. This group is also progressive on social issues, voicing strong support for universal healthcare, relaxed immigration laws and equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation.

And, despite growing up with social media, Generation Z still places a high value on interpersonal interaction, with 66 percent disagreeing with the notion that they’d rather interact with their friends online than in person.

But the place where Generation Z, also known as the Globals, might leave their most lasting mark, is in how they deal with people of different backgrounds and races, and even in how they define themselves.

“The racial categories we’ve been using all along may change as there’s more interracial marriage [and] interracial dating,” said Frey. “So that’ll be a very interesting way the country develops over time. We really don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of change.”

 

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Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha! How Immigrants Transform US Cuisine

Posted May 4th, 2016 at 8:34 am (UTC-5)
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Sriracha is a hot sauce or chili sauce made from chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. (Photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart via Creative Commons license)

Sriracha is a hot sauce or chili sauce made from chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. (Photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart via Creative Commons license)

Ketchup, a tangy tomato sauce that Americans put on hamburgers and dip French fries into, has long been America’s favorite condiment, but an upstart with Asian roots is beginning to make inroads.

Sriracha, a hot sauce usually made from chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt, probably originated in Thailand, but is increasingly showing up in American restaurants and kitchens. Evidence, says one food expert, of the great transformation currently taking place in American cuisine.

“About every 40 years, with each new cohort of immigrants coming into the United States, American cuisine changes dramatically,” said Krishnendu Ray, professor of food studies at New York University. “American food changes, American taste changes, which makes American cuisine and culture, in fact, a lot more dynamic and a lot more interesting.”

America's meat and potatoes past was influenced by immigrants from Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland. (Photo by Flickr user Paul Keller via Creative Commons license)

America’s meat and potatoes past was influenced by immigrants from Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland. (Photo by Flickr user Paul Keller via Creative Commons license)

Ray says we’re in the middle of the third great transformation of American cuisine. The first occurred In the middle half of the nineteenth century, when about 20 million northern European immigrants, primarily from Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland, came to America, bringing a very distinctive palate with them.

Their preferences, including dairy, butter, cheese, lager, bread, pork, beef, and flavors like dill and butter, eventually came to be regarded as traditional American food. When we talk about Americans being “meat and potatoes” people, says Ray, we’re referring to this northern European influence.

The second transformation in American cuisine came with the arrival, from around 1880 to 1920, of immigrants who were mostly Mediterranean and Eastern European — Jews, Italians and Greeks — who dramatically altered American tastes.

“We get exposed to olive oil, for example,” said Ray. “The center of gravity in American cooking shifts from butter to olive oil, [and] herbs like mint and rosemary, fish and wine.”

The third mammoth shift began around 1965 and continues today with another 30 million immigrants from Asia, including China and India, as well as parts of Latin America. These new arrivals have influenced our taste for avocado, soy sauce, cilantro, chilis, mango, jicama, curry and, of course, sriracha.

The great Asian and Latin American transformation of American cuisine can be seen in upper-end restaurants where elite American chefs prepare dishes revolving around Mediterranean food with Asian and Hispanic inflections.

A Mexican restaurant in Placerville, California. (Photo by Flickr user Kent Kanouse via Creative Commons license)

A Mexican restaurant in Placerville, California. (Photo by Flickr user Kent Kanouse via Creative Commons license)

U.S. Census data dating back to 1850 — and probably before that although there is no data to support that assertion — shows that immigrants, especially those who didn’t speak English or whose educational qualifications or job skills did not transfer to the new world, have long dominated the U.S. food industry.

“Overall, immigrants have been way over-represented in the feeding occupations in American history. When we match the occupations and birthplace data, we see baker, butcher, green grocer, saloon keeper, tavern keeper, subsequently cook…they’re all foreign born,” Ray said, “meaning that 70, 80, 90 percent of bakers, butchers, saloon keepers in New York City [and] in the major cities, are foreign born and in the rest of the country, in the smaller towns, they add up almost to 50 percent.”

However, not all immigrant groups leave their mark on American cuisine, especially those who move up the social and economic ladder very quickly, or arrive in the United States and immediately enter the middle class. Ray says Filipinos on the East Coast are an example of an immigrant group that, for the most part, bypassed the food industry, by going straight to the middle class. And although Jews, many of them Germans, opened delis and brought us cream cheese bagels and pickled fishes, you don’t see as many Jewish-owned delis as you used to.

“They also move up so quickly, that there are hardly any Jewish restaurateurs left,” Ray said. “Today it’s tough to find a Jewish deli owner because Jews have moved basically into medicine, into law, and they have, in fact, become the greatest commentators and eaters commenting on food. In fact, if you look at restaurant critics, there’s a much stronger Jewish presence than [there are] owners of restaurants.”

He anticipates Indian professional elites will follow the Jewish example by becoming notable critics of food, but contributing less to the actual production and preparation of that food.

Meanwhile, with Latin and Asian cuisines moving to center stage, Ray expects to see evidence of increased internal differentiation with, for example, the opening of more Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Guatemalan and Salvadoran restaurants.

There’s evidence American food manufacturers aren’t about to be left behind as this latest transformation of U.S. cuisine occurs. Heinz, one of the leading makers of ketchup, recently decided to blend the old with the new with its introduction of a Sriracha-flavored ketchup.

What Your First Name Reveals About Who You Vote For

Posted May 2nd, 2016 at 11:47 am (UTC-5)
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Presidential hopefuls Democrats Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with Republican Donald Trump all have ties to New York. (AP Photos)

Presidential hopefuls Democrats Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Republican Donald Trump. (AP Photos)

People named Chad are more likely to be Republicans and those named Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump for president. The Jonathans are usually Democrats and people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton.

That’s the finding of a project put together by Verdant Labs, which used campaign contribution data from the Federal Election Commission to reach its conclusions. The company examined the 20 million campaign contributions since 1996, breaking them down by name and whether they donated to Democratics or Republicans. They put people who primarily made Republican contributions in the Republican column and did the same for Democrats.

Verdant Labs

Verdant Labs

 .

According to Verdant, here are the names of the people most likely to support Republicans:

Verdant Labs

Verdant Labs

 

And these are the most popular names that tend to support Democrats.

 

Verdant Labs

Verdant Labs

 

The names with the highest donation median include Akram, Chaim, Chana, Dov and Judah.

Verdant Labs also assessed the names of current members of Congress and found that their names, or the names they choose to go by — for example, Ted Cruz’s full name is Rafael Edward Cruz — are an excellent predictor of political affiliation. Sixty-five percent of members in both the House of Representatives and Senate belong to the political party that matches their name leanings.

You can see how your name ranks here.

 

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US Millennials Beat Baby Boomers as Largest Living Generation

Posted April 29th, 2016 at 12:47 pm (UTC-5)
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(Photo by Flickr user Ed Uthman via Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Flickr user Ed Uthman via Creative Commons license)

The long reign of the baby boomers is over. The millennial generation is now the United States’ largest living generation, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

FT_generations-definedThere are now 75.4 million millennials—people born during the period from 1981 and 1997—who were between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2015. They edged past the country’s 74.9 million baby boomers, the generation born after World War II, who range in age from 51 to 69.

“Millennials are kind of their own culture,” said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution author of Diversity Explosion. “They’re already being noticed because of their size and their unique attributes but, for the most part, they’re not yet in positions of power so that will occur in the next 10 or 15 years and when that happens, they’ll make a marked change.”

Millennials are the best-educated U.S. generation to date. They’re more likely to be politically independent, rather than Republican or Democrat, and they’re much more socially liberal, accepting things like gay marriage to a much greater degree than earlier generations.

The United States might have a history of isolationism but, with this new generation, that’s likely to be all in the past.

FT_16_04.25_generations2050“Because they’re more racially diverse and many of their parents were born outside the United States, they are more familiar and more adept at interacting with people from other cultures and other backgrounds,” Frey said. “This much more diverse, kind-of international generation…is going to have a much more global reach. It’s going to make us better able and better equipped to persist and succeed in a global economy.”

Before the ascendance of the millennials, baby boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964, ruled as the largest living U.S. generation and wielded a great deal of cultural, economic and political influence.

The baby boomers peaked at 78.8 million in 1999, as boomers born in other countries continued to swell their ranks. The millennials are expected to surpass that number in 2036 at 81.1 million.

But don’t expect the rabble-rousing generation that expanded racial diversity and advanced women’s rights to shuffle quietly into gray-haired obscurity. They might not be inclined to give up position, power and influence without a fight.

“They may tend to get a little bit ornery as they get older,” Frey said. “I think enough of them will revive some of their earlier ideas and rebelliousness as they get into old age, in good ways, and they may be able to partner with millennials to make that change come about. But it could be rough for a few years.”

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Want to Reach US Hispanics? Try Texting Them

Posted April 27th, 2016 at 3:00 pm (UTC-5)
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(Photo by Flickr user  Jhaymesisviphotography via Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Flickr user Jhaymesisviphotography via Creative Commons license)

The youngest major racial or ethnic group in the United States is the nation’s Latino population. Fifty-eight percent — nearly 6-in-10 — of U.S. Hispanics are millennials (approximately ages 18-33) or younger, according to the Pew Research Center.

PH_2016-04-20_LatinoYouth-01By comparison, half of the black population, and 46 percent of the Asian population, are in that young age group. Non-Hispanic whites are the nation’s oldest racial group, with only about 4-in-10 whites being millennials or younger.

Two-thirds of Hispanic millennials were born in the United States and about 75 percent of all Latino millennials have a good command of the English language.

Latinos have been the nation’s youngest group since the 1980s, although their median age has edged up over the years — from 22 in the 1980s to 28 in 2014. The median ages for other racial and ethnic groups are 33 for blacks, 36 for Asians and 43 for whites.

These young Latinos have the potential to wield significant political clout. At 43 percent, they are the single largest bloc of voters among U.S. Hispanics. In 2016, 11.9 million Hispanic millennials are expected to be eligible to vote. While their numbers have grown significantly, however, they are still far fewer than the 42 million white millennials who will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election.

Youth, Naturalizations Main Sources of Hispanic Eligible Voter Growth since 2012

These numbers are the result of a huge immigration wave from Latin America and Asia that peaked in the 2000s, after 59 million immigrants came to the United States over 50 years. About half of today’s U.S.-born Hispanics, and 80 percent of U.S.-born Asians, are the children of immigrants, many of whom came to America during this most recent wave.

Marketers are spending lots of money to reach the coveted Hispanic consumer group. Advertising dollars targeting Latino consumers grew 12 percent in 2014, far ahead of the 5 percent increase for overall U.S. major-media ad spending, according to Advertising Age.

But if sellers want to reach young Hispanics below the age of 33, they might want to zero in on mobile platforms. After all, 90 percent of all millennials report that their smartphones never leave their sides.

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Trump Says American Dream Is Dead, Is He Right?

Posted April 25th, 2016 at 1:51 pm (UTC-5)
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears on the NBC "Today" television program in New York , April 21, 2016. (AP Photo)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears on the NBC “Today” television program in New York , April 21, 2016. (AP Photo)

Donald Trump has famously declared that the American Dream is dead, but the majority of middle class Americans seem to disagree with the Republican presidential frontrunner.

Sixty-three percent of people surveyed earlier this year believe they are living the American Dream. That finding suggests American optimism hasn’t been a casualty of the recession, despite a report that says 90 percent of Americans are worse off today than they were in the 1970s.

While the income of the top 10 percent has skyrocketed, the rest of Americans are having to make do with less, according to the report from the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, which found that 90 percent of Americans are pretty much earning the same income or even less than they were 40 years ago.

Graphic from "Destabilizing an Unstable Economy" Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

Graphic from “Destabilizing an Unstable Economy” Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

That’s quite a change from the period beginning in the 1940s leading up to 1970s. During that time, real income — the goods and services people can afford today compared to the price of the same goods and services they could have bought in another time period — went up steadily for all Americans.

The widening income inequality gap over the last four decades can seriously affect the economy, according to the report’s authors.

“The transfer of income shares from the middle class and lower income households toward households at the top of the income distribution is a serious drag on demand,” the authors wrote, “since the saving rate of the latter is much higher than that of the former.”

The Red Pin.com suggests the American dream is difficult for the average U.S. family with two children to attain today. The real estate website defines the costs of the American dream as including a mortgage, car payment, gas, utilities, food and water for a family of four, four inexpensive restaurant meals each month for the family, one movie for the family and one date night for the parents, with a three-course meal at a mid-priced restaurant.

“The average U.S. household earning a single average wage, or lower, cannot afford the classic American dream,” said Ashley Carlisle of TheRedPin.com. “In fact, the annual average salary is about $10,000 away from reaching that goal and that doesn’t even include paying off other debts or investments like retirement or college.”

Annual wages of $62,348 are needed to achieve that dream but, in reality, the average American family brings in just $47,598, according to Carlisle.

“That just makes it very difficult, or even impossible, to live out the traditional definition of the dream,” she said. “It could suggest that the confines of the traditional American dream may evolve as new generations begin redefining what they consider living a rich and fulfilling life. It may differ from previous generations given these financial constraints.”

Despite the financial challenges, the majority of Americans still appear to subscribe to the inherent American belief that determination and hard work are the key to personal success, no matter the impact of economic conditions and government policies.

However, there might be a slight dent in that optimism. Despite believing they are living the American dream, 55 percent of Americans surveyed said “raising a family and making sure they have more opportunity than you did” is less achievable today.

 

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