Introduction

The biggest threat to the American dream is access to well-paying jobs.

 

All the most talked-about indicators point to a booming U.S. economy: unemployment is at historic lows, the GDP is up, the stock market is on the rise. But If you're one of the approximately 65 million Americans stuck in low-paid jobs, getting a slice of economic success is unbearably difficult (Federal Reserve Bank of New York).

Forget getting ahead — many people are barely getting by. About 40 percent of American families are struggling to meet at least one of their basic needs, including food, health care, housing, or utilities (Urban Institute).

These Americans are coming up against forces that are fundamentally transforming the economy...

  • Automation, which is disrupting the kind of work, primarily in the manufacturing and service industries, that has sustained middle- and working-class incomes for generations.

  • Technological advancements in various industries, which has increased the demand for high-skilled labor while pushing out lower-skilled workers.

  • The expanding rural-urban economic divide, which has created an opportunity chasm in large swathes of the country as employers gravitate toward population centers.

What’s more, the pathways to prosperity remain elusive.

And so, in turn, does the American dream.