We Can't Afford To Live The American Dream

Study finds that the "American Dream" is Beyond All Average World Salaries

We Can't Afford To Live The American Dream
May 17, 2016

What does the "American Dream" mean to you? Is it a nuclear family with a home and a comfortable job? Is it having your basic needs met, or having the freedom to do whatever you want?

Canadian real estate site TheRedPin.com decided to come up with a standard cost of an American Dream and see how accessible that American Dream was to average citizens of countries around the world. Unfortunately, by TheRedPin's definition, there is no country where the average citizen can live the American Dream — not even America.

For study purposes, the costs of the standard American Dream was chosen to be representative of a family of four. A mortgage and car payment represented larger costs, while utilities, food and water represented basic monthly costs. The extravagances, if they can be called that, include four relatively inexpensive family meals at a restaurant each month, along with one family movie and one date night for parents. (Sorry, there is no cable or satellite TV, but unlimited high-speed Internet is included in the utilities.)

Those average costs require a $3,559 post-tax monthly income according to the study's calculations. Unfortunately, the average American post-tax salary is $2,717. To live the American Dream in America, you have to earn approximately 1.31 times the average American salary.

Perhaps it should be called the Persian Gulf Dream, because five of the six countries whose average local salaries came closest to meeting the American Dream reside there. They range from Saudi Arabia with 1.04 times the average salary to Kuwait at 1.42. Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar round out the top six, along with the United States.

On the other end of the economic scale, in which country does it take the highest multiple of local salaries to meet the American Dream as defined in this study? The answer is Cuba, at a whopping 95.7 local salaries. (There is a reason why so many Cubans have made risky attempts to reach U.S. shores over the years.) Inflation-plagued Venezuela requires the second-most number of local salaries at 33.8, while Ghana is third with 25.2 local salaries.

TheRedPin's world map of average local salaries necessary to finance the American Dream shows clear wealth concentrations. North America, Western and Central Europe, the Gulf States, and the South Pacific are generally within striking distance of the American Dream, while Eastern Europe, Asia, and large portions of South America and Africa remain far away.

The study also looked at the American Dream from the opposite perspective — if your American salary were transferred into local equivalents, in what countries would you be most able to live the equivalent of the American Dream? You can live the American Dream at lower than 70% of the average American salary in Libya (60.7%), Nepal (65.6%), Tunisia (69.3%), and Moldova (69.7%). Conversely, the four least affordable countries for the American Dream all require more than three times the average American salary: Singapore (3.98 salaries), Ghana (3.43), Argentina (3.11), and Switzerland (3.01).

For more details about the study, its methodology, and an interactive map that allows you to see your ability to live the American Dream with your salary at various countries around the world, check out the original article on TheRedPin. It is nice to know that you can theoretically live the American Dream in some countries, even though you probably will not decide to move to Libya or Tunisia to test the theory.

Photo ©iStock.com/ashumskiy

  Conversation   |   9 Comments

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Steffanie | 05.18.16 @ 01:05
I am not surprised that the American dream is unattainable for most. Things are so expensive anymore.
Nancy | 05.18.16 @ 01:13
This is so true. If I were to put my house up for sale, I couldn't afford to buy it. How are young people, just starting out, supposed to be able to afford it?
trish | 05.18.16 @ 01:14
Wow, while it is not surprising, when it is spelled out like this, it puts it into perspective. Luckily for us, living the American Dream is a roof over our head, and food in our bellies. So far, we have been able to afford that. Nice car? Nope. Fancy clothes? Not really. Electric bill paid? Yes. Overall, this is what we consider a win!
Sarah | 05.18.16 @ 01:16
I long since gave up on the so-called American Dream. It is s ofar beyond what I can imagine anymore
Elaine | 05.18.16 @ 01:16
Things have gotten way out of hand and expensive. I couldn't imagine most affording the American dream anymore.
Jonathan | 05.18.16 @ 01:17
Really just getting by is hard enough mist days.
Selena | 05.18.16 @ 01:24
For me, the American dream is having the basics, and a little extra money for an occasional treat for the children. I'm able to do that, but not much else. I don't own a car, so I'm saving on insurance, gas and car payments. I have no idea how we'd make it if we actually had to add in those bills.
Jane | 05.18.16 @ 01:24
It's almost impossible to "live the American dream." We're losing the middle class, and wages are not going up for hardy anyone, even though inflation is.
Erin | 05.18.16 @ 01:28
If anyone is surprised by this information, I don't think they have been paying attention. But everyone is just supposed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and figure out a way. Just work harder, right?
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 04.11.21 @ 19:47