“All These People Who Can Do Things That I Can’t”: Adolescents’ Reflections on Class, Poverty, and the American Dream

Carol Hostetter, Sabrina Williamson Sullenberger, Leila Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


This article investigates high school seniors’ attitudes about socioeconomic status in two historical contexts: the growing economy of the mid-1990s and the recent economic recession. High school seniors (N = 72) were provided with identical scenarios and questions that prompted them to evaluate social stratification. The 1996 cohort expressed belief in the American Dream and individual mobility whereas the 2011 cohort articulated more understanding of structural issues that affect social class mobility. Analysis showed greater awareness of the economy’s impact on family life in the 2011 cohort. Finally, the 2011 cohort noted the strong role of technology as an indicator of status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-152
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Poverty
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • adolescents
  • American Dream
  • poverty beliefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Sociology and Political Science

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