Does Gen-Z have a chance at the American Dream?

Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

Over the past centuries, numerous generations in the United States have come and gone. For the most part, the majority of them had similar norms that they were able to follow such as moving out of their parents’ homes and becoming financially stable at a certain time in their lives. Gen Z however isn’t a typical generation that can be compared to these previous generations in many ways. 


The majority of Gen Zs are recently entering adulthood and the state of our economy is making it near impossible for the average Gen Z to thrive. For instance, postsecondary education is one of the most critical factors in a person’s success, however, at this point, post-secondary education has become out of reach for many Gen Z.  According to the Gitnux Blog,” 65% of Gen Z students are enrolled in college, compared to 67% of Millennials at the same age.” This figure isn’t surprising given how the Federal Reserve has been increasing interest rates lately. Many Gen Z have watched millennials and Gen X struggle with student loans as Congress controlled by a majority of baby boomers sits in limbo on whether to pass student loan forgiveness legislation or not. And for that reason, Gen Zs aren’t inspired to take on student loans. Without postsecondary education, we are financially illiterate and vulnerable to a life of financial instability because, for 13 years of our lives, we have been thrown into a century-old school system that only teaches us how to be obedient factory workers instead of teaching us crucial life lessons that will help us think out of the box. 


However flawed, the majority of generations before us believed in the American Dream and were inspired by it. The Oxford Dictionary defines the American Dream as “ the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.” A perfect picture of this dream would be a middle-class family with a decent house and all necessities and wants met. This is an unrealistic dream for Gen Z given that the majority of us are stuck in our parents’ homes unable to financially live on our own by the age of 18 or early twenties as the generations before us did. In today’s world, wages do not meet the living standards due to the increased cost of living. Home and rent prices were more stable in previous decades, however, house prices and rents have become very volatile now. For instance, the national median rent hiked by 16.7% from 2021 to 2022 (June Homes). How does society expect young adults to afford a roof over their heads with these prices?


Other generations are quick to label us as lazy and clueless without taking the time to examine the environment that they played a role in creating for us. We are the first generation to grow up in the digital world, which has its benefits but also harms us in numerous ways that other generations can’t comprehend. We are the generation that is experiencing mental health at a high rate while not getting enough help due to financial struggles or given that many of our communities still hold stigmas toward mental illness and are therefore incapable of assisting us. 


Gen Zs are always labeled lazy and a failure by other generations because that’s an easy approach. However, I urge the other generations to step up and examine the issues that Gen Zs are facing instead of ranting about us on the internet and where else. Criticizing Gen Zs will not fix the economy for us, will not improve the state of our deteriorating planet, or any do us any favor. I challenge the generations before us to examine the root causes of our “laziness” and “failures” and take some responsibility because they were before us and they played a big role in setting this environment for us.