Where Is The American Dream Still Alive?

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American Dream map

Each year millions of people come to the United States in pursuit of the American dream. Their goal is to work hard, get a job, buy a home, put their children through college, and build a better life for their families.

It’s a noble goal, and one that isn’t easy to achieve. That’s why Estately set out to find where the American dream is most attainable. To do that we set out to find which U.S. states offered the best chances for economic and educational success, home ownership, and political participation, as well as had high numbers of foreign-born people who’ve already achieved the American dream. Our final rankings were determined by ranking each of the 50 states using the eight indicators below and then averaged the results.

  1. Hard work:  The average number of hours worked per day by employed people (source: BLS America Time Survey)
  2. Attainability of college degrees:  Percentage of residents over age 26 with a bachelor’s degree or higher (source: U.S. Census)
  3. Home ownership: Rate of home ownership 2009-2013 (source: U.S. Census)
  4. Foreign-born residents:  Percentage of population born in other countries (source: U.S. Census)
  5. Median income:  The median income of each state (source: U.S. Census)
  6. Income equality:  Gini index for median income 2013 (source:  U.S. Census)
  7. Employment:  The state’s unemployment rate (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics) 
  8. Voter turnout: Percentage of voting age people who participate in elections 1980-2012 (source: U.S. Elections Project)


While all U.S. states provide opportunities for newcomers, the hardest places to achieve the American dream seem to be in the South and Southwest. The best places appear to be the Mountain West, Midwest, Northwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic.  Check out the ten best states to achieve the American dream below.

1. Minnesota

With high rates of homeownership, employment, college degrees, and voter turnout, Minnesota came in as Estately’s top state to achieve the American dream. It’s a hardworking state that values education and offers a great chance at homeownership, and locals turn out for elections in far greater numbers than any state except Maine. Foreign-born residents don’t make up a large part of the local population, but that is starting to change, particularly in big cities like Minneapolis.

2. New Hampshire

The third hardest working state in the country, The Granite State’s work ethic is one reason it has the fifth lowest unemployment rate, the sixth highest median income, and the seventh highest rate of homeownership. New Hampshire is in the bottom of the country in being home to foreign-born residents, but there’s no denying there’s opportunities there.

3. Utah

In general, Utah residents don’t vote in high numbers or work extremely long hours, but the state does enjoy high incomes, solid income equality, and a high homeownership rate.

4. Delaware

Particularly when compared to neighboring New Jersey, Delaware is an ideal destination. It has a much higher rates of homeownership, employment, and income equality.

5. Colorado

Over 37% of Colorado residents over age 26 have a bachelor’s degree or higher—the second highest in the country. In addition to valuing education, the state is home to a high number of foreign-born residents, as well as workers who put in long hours. Homeownership isn’t particularly high, but the state offers better opportunities than the neighboring states to the south.

6. Maryland

With the highest percentage of foreign-born residents of any state in the top ten, Maryland has been a destination for those coming to the U.S. in search of the American dream. It has the highest median income of any state, but is only 19th for income equality. Nearly 37% of residents over 26 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and you really can’t beat the crab cakes.

7. Vermont

Just 4.1% of Vermont’s population is foreign born, far less than neighboring New York States’ 22.1%. New York City may have the Statue of Liberty to welcome immigrants, but Vermont has a dramatically better homeownership rate, greater income equality, and better opportunity for political influence.

8. Virginia

Most states in the South, or ones touching the Appalachian Mountains, do not post strong numbers in this study, but Virginia is the exception. The state ranks highly for bachelor’s degrees, income, and foreign-born residents.

9. Iowa

Homeownership and employment numbers are high in Iowa, and the state offers better opportunities than most of its neighbors.

10. South Dakota

South Dakota has very few foreign-born residents, but it has strong economic opportunities, affordable housing, and solid income equality. It might not seem as tempting as Hawaii, the #11 state in our study, but it has a much cheaper cost of living.

Looking to buy a home in one of these states? Check out Estately.com.


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