Get Social

New Research Reveals Millennials and Generation Z Believe American Dream is Possible

October 6, 2020
Nearly half expect to have a life better than their parents - with Black, Latino and Asian respondents reporting greater optimism

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Oct. 6, 2020 – Millennials and Generation Z are optimistic about their future, and two-thirds believe the American Dream is achievable, according to an Echelon Insights study commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation. Nearly half of young Americans expect to have a life better than their parents – with Black, Latino and Asian respondents reporting greater optimism.

Media Contact
Heather Chappell

“The social change our country needs is far too big for any one generation to carry,” said Caryl Stern, executive director of the Walton Family Foundation. “Because multi-generational change is at the heart of what we do, we want to listen to young Americans and work together to realize the change we all want and need.”

More than 4,000 respondents, ranging in age from 13-23 (Generation Z) and 24-39 (Millennials), from across the United States were surveyed. The optimism of respondents is notable despite formidable challenges during their lifetime – growing up in the shadow of the terror attacks of September 11, two wars, a financial crisis and now a global pandemic. Some 60% of Black Millennials and Gen Zers say they have faced or expect to face racial inequality as a roadblock to opportunity.

“Despite the stereotypes, findings show these generations are engaged and passionate about building a better future,” said Kristen Soltis Anderson, co-founder of Echelon Insights. “This means ensuring no paths are blocked, no doors are closed to someone because of where they were born or what they look like - everyone has a chance to build the life they want. That is the new American Dream.”

Young Americans view the American Dream as having the freedom and opportunity to build the life they dream of on their own terms. Making this new American Dream a reality starts with an education – eight in ten respondents believe having a high-quality education is very important to have a better life, but 43% say higher education is too expensive or hard to access. Clean air and water are absolute essentials – 74% say “the environment in my community” is extremely or very important for enabling the opportunity to live a better life.

"As a first-generation Mexican American, Millennial and parent, this is personal. Future generations are telling us that they won't stop until they can access the opportunities they want and deserve. That is why I am committed to ensuring they can access the most critical of resources - water, clean air and the environment," said Ángel Peña, Public Lands Consultant at GreenLatinos.

“The hurdles are innumerable, but Generation Z and Millennials, we have our own spirit. We're determined and strong as two groups separated by a sliver of time” said Evy Valencia, Chief of Staff at 50CAN. “Our generations want to achieve change in the world and we believe that change can and should happen in our lifetimes. The moment is polarized politically, but the resilience and dedication of these generations are something we should all celebrate.”

The foundation commissioned this research in the midst of two pandemics – COVID-19 and systemic racism – which are exposing longstanding inequities in systems across the country.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2019, the foundation awarded more than $525 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.