When It Comes to the American Dream, the U.S. Ranks 27th in the World

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The American Dream -- the notion that anybody, regardless of background, can achieve financial stability and build a secure life for his or her family -- is a huge part of America's self-identity. For centuries, it has been enshrined in our literature, in our history and in our politics. It is, in many ways, the most important aspect of life in this country.

However, a recent study suggests that, like so many other American things, the American Dream may have been outsourced to other countries. Specifically, the 26 other countries where median wealth is higher than in the U.S.

Credit Suisse's annual Global Wealth Data Book publishes a ranking of median wealth in countries around the world. Basically, this study looks at the sum of all assets, subtracts all liabilities, and comes up with the amount of money that the household in the middle of the wealth distribution can put its hands on. As one might expect, rich enclaves like the UAE (21) and Luxembourg (2) did well. Similarly, countries with a strong social safety net -- like Canada (12), Sweden (24), and Germany (23) -- also outpace us. But there are a few surprises, too. For example, the U.S. ranks behind Ireland (18), Spain (20) and Cyprus (25), countries that are generally recognized for their abysmal economies.

Why does America rank so low? The answer shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody who watches the news: To begin with, financial deregulation has concentrated wealth at the top of the income pyramid, wage stagnation has made life harder for workers, and the shredding of America's social safety net has made it ever more difficult for people to climb out of poverty. If you're interested in seeing a more comprehensive explanation, Les Leopold has written a pretty solid rundown.

The other side of the story -- and another aspect that makes this income inequality even more appalling -- is that, while the Global Wealth Data Book's numbers are based on the average of all households, the wealth held by the richest of the rich badly skews the equation. As this video notes, the top 1 percent of households own almost 50 percent of all stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. By comparison, the bottom 50 percent of all households own 0.5 percent of those wealth instruments.

Or, to put it another way, the middle class dream is alive and well in America -- as long as you're part of the upper class.



Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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toosmart4u

It is the republican way. If you are drawing social security and medicare thank a democrat, if you want to end these 2 programs vote republican.

June 30 2013 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
h.hughjardon

Have we turned into The People's Republic of YesWeCanistan?

June 21 2013 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rich_paddlyrich

76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.[i] SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013).[ii] The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744; net monthly income of $338 after the standard deduction and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account.
What, pray tell, are republicans talking about when they continue to claim people who receive food stamps don't work or should work. Are republicans not aware of these statistics?

Food security and food power are not the same thing. However, they are often directly related. Food security is when all people of a region at all times have enough food for an active, healthy life. Food power is related when a government, company, leader, country etc. takes this security away in order to get something in return. So my question is: What are republicans and their corporate masters trying to get in return? I wonder....

June 21 2013 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to rich_paddlyrich's comment
h.hughjardon

No mention of EITCs?

June 21 2013 at 11:41 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to h.hughjardon's comment
h.hughjardon

My sister usually gets a larger return than my wife and I. Wifey is a research tech and I'm an IBEW electrician. Sister hasn't worked for over ten years....just her and her son.

June 21 2013 at 3:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
h.hughjardon

Aren't these SNAP households with children also getting breakfast and lunch at school at no cost to them? And medicaid? Some credits on their EBT card for non food purchases? My sister uses the welfare cash on her card here in OR to buy her smokes and other shlt.

June 21 2013 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Keith

The "American Dream" is about Life, Liberty and PUSUIT of Happiness, not to have it handed to you paid for off the backs of hard-working taxpayers!

The Middle Class has been destroyed by reckless spending policies and massive taxes disguised under "Tax the Rich" scams. Corporate America , the top 1% "Greedy Rich" pay 30% of the Nation's taxes despite what politicians try to pass off to their constituents. Between them and the 47% riding the social program wave you can do the math and see who pays the rest! The "rich" have many ways to work around any new taxes, including how to pass it off onto their labor force or customers. The Middle Class is where the bulk of the nation's revenue is; democrats know this and want that revenue without losing voters so its "Tax the Rich" know it gets passed on then when re-elections come around they blame everyone else including the "rich".

No nation ever brought their poor into prosperity by dragging down the revenue generators. Like every other failed economy policy, the liberal response to it is "Do it Again".

June 21 2013 at 9:57 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Keith's comment
h.hughjardon

The top 1% pay ~ 39% of all federal income taxes. The top 5% pay 60% and the top 10% pay 70%.

June 21 2013 at 11:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
The Boss

So, are we talking about the 'North American" dream? The "South American dream? This headline make no sense!

June 21 2013 at 9:41 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
rich_paddlyrich

Corporations have destroyed the middle class.

June 21 2013 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rich_paddlyrich's comment
h.hughjardon

But what is The American Dream?

June 21 2013 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
howardggodfrey

We are being governed by idiots and it shows

June 21 2013 at 8:50 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to howardggodfrey's comment
adofilli

bad part we elected them!
america has never had such "scum"
in Government

June 21 2013 at 10:16 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
ectullis

We're number 27 and we try harder.

June 21 2013 at 8:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
njenel

the rich will have the resources to run when the country goes BELLY UP !

June 21 2013 at 8:27 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to njenel's comment
adofilli

Your not --as you call it rich--because you don't want to be

June 21 2013 at 10:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mapgar1391

THIS GOVT. AND GREEDY BANKING ALONG WITH CORPORATE AMERICA DOESNTCARE ABOUT THE AVERAGE US WORKER ....ITS ALL ABOUT THE PROFITS...GOVT WANTS YOUR TAX DOLLARS AND BIG BUISINESS WANTS TO BREAK YOUR BACK WORKING FOR NOTHING

June 21 2013 at 7:56 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply