James Truslow Adams, an early 20th century historian, coined the term in the preface of his 1931 book The Epic of America, where he wrote of "That American Dream of a better, richer and happier life for all our citizens of every rank, which is the greatest contribution we have as yet made to the thought and welfare of the world ... That dream or hope has been present from the start."
More than 80 years later, JPMorgan Chase has taken a look at the issue in its American Dream 2.0 survey, at a time political and economic tensions are high and as Americans appear anxious about their financial futures.
The study, done in conjunction with financial planning services provider LearnVest, surveyed 1,223 Americans in July.
Somewhat surprisingly, less than half of all Americans surveyed by the banking giant (43%) say they believe in the American Dream. Another 29% say they are not sure and another 29% say they do not believe in it.
A look inside the numbers reveals that the dream is largely a financial one, built on accumulated wealth.
"For many consumers, the American Dream means making financial progress," says Tom O'Donnell, a senior vice president at Chase. "As a result, consumers are thinking more about their spending and saving habits and if those habits can support their life goals."
Some other takeaways from the survey: