The American Dream

It seems this notion of the American Dream rears its head every election year. As a nation we see firsthand how politicians continually espouse its virtues and are quick to point out how their campaign will ensure that this rather nebulous, ever-changing notion is, indeed, within our grasp…If we vote for them, that is.

But does the American Dream actually still exist? I, for one, would like to think so, but I suppose it depends on who you ask. And even more so, where they are in their life’s journey. For Twin Citians, it seems we are in the perfect place for achieving it—at least according to Estately’s annual report in which Minneapolis secured the top spot this year (after ranking second last year).

Looking at quantifiable statistics such as hours worked per day, bachelor’s degrees per capita, home ownership, percentage of foreign-born population, median income, income equality, employment rate and voter turnout, it was evident why our Twin Cities placed so high. Yet, despite this and countless other accolades annually bestowed on our fair cities, not everyone understands that this “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (over 11,000 actually) is also an incredible Land of Opportunity.

Perhaps a recent article in The Atlantic explained it best. In it, the American Dream was examined through the eyes of the Millennial generation. Rather than simply trying to live affordably and climb higher than their parents like the generations before them aspired to do, Millennials today increasingly have to choose one or the other. They can settle in affordable but stagnant metros or live in economically vibrant cities whose housing prices eat much of their paychecks unless they hit it big. (Think rich coastal metropolises like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles—you get the idea). The problem? These are among the least affordable cities when looking at a homeowner’s average monthly payments relative to the area’s median income.

Of the 20 richest cities, only three large metros offer homes that are within reach for young, middle-class families: Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Of these three, the Twin Cities stand out because our metro is richer by median household income than the other two…as well as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles for that matter.

What’s more, among residents under 35, the Twin Cities place in the top 10 for highest college graduation rate, highest median earnings and lowest poverty rate, according to the most recent U.S. Census figures. And yet, according to the Center for Housing Policy, low-income families can rent a home and commute to work more affordably in Minneapolis–St. Paul than in all but one other major metro area (Washington, D.C.). Perhaps most impressive, the Twin Cities have the highest employment rate for 18-to-34-year-olds in the country.

Indeed, the American Dream is alive and well here.

Consider Minneapolis-St. Paul…

  • Is the healthiest city in America
  • Is the No. 2 best city in America for college grads
  • Is the No. 6 most innovative city in America
  • Has one the lowest unemployment rates in the country
  • Has a state budget surplus of $1.2 billion

All of these ranks aside—and there are many, many more—the Twin Cities look much better in person than on paper. Yes, we have an exceptionally strong business community with 17 Fortune 500 companies and the nation’s leading healthcare facilities. Yes, we have an unbeatable theater and arts scene, with more theater seats per capita than anywhere outside New York City. Our region’s educational achievement serves as the bedrock for this thriving cultural and business community. Recent census data shows that Minnesota had the second highest percentage of residents with a high school diploma (91.5 percent) and the 10th highest percentage (32.4 percent) with a bachelor’s degree.

On paper, the Twin Cities will hold its own, and in all likelihood, far surpass any other city you compare it to. But when you come visit, you’ll be sold not on all these statistics, but on the natural beauty and friendliness of the people here. You’ll find 13.3 miles of pathways that encircle the famed Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis. You’ll learn that that 94 percent of us live within a 10-minute walk to a park—it is easy to understand why we have one of the best park systems in the nation. In my humble opinion, there’s no better mix of nearby big city amenities with downhome goodness.

So whether you question the existence of the American Dream or are in hot pursuit of it, the Twin Cities is the perfect place to make it a reality.

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