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American dream still burns bright for many – but results vary

Men in their 30s earn about $5,000 less in real terms than their fathers' generation did, according to a new study.

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If the American dream means doing better than your parents did, then Mike Brockman's not living it. Single, with a 10-year-old daughter, he's a server at a Black Angus restaurant in Mesa, Ariz. His father at his age had a good, steady job as a machinist at TRW.

Today "there aren't the kind of jobs available you used to get with a high school education, and work yourself up," says Mr. Brockman. "Now you have to have training or experience to start – then you can work your way up from there."

Norman Payne, on the other hand, thinks the American dream is alive and well. An immigrant from Panama, he's lived in the US for 16 years – and on June 28 in Boston he was sworn in as a US citizen.

Mr. Payne works in customer service at Kodak and has high hopes for his young son and daughter.

"I don't think the American dream has changed," he says. "I am trying to do everything I can do so that they can do better than I did."

Two hundred and thirty-one years after the 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, is the United States still the land of opportunity, the light of hope for the poor of the world?

The economic dream that has united a diverse population for generations, that children would be more prosperous than their parents, is in question as perhaps never before.

Yet the nation's overall standard of living remains high. Immigrants both legal and illegal arrive every year by the tens of thousands, testament to the US economy's continuing dynamism.

Less mobility in US

Overall, there is actually less economic mobility in the US than in Canada and many European countries, notes John Morton, Managing Director, Program Planning and Economic Policy, for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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