Dreaming the Impossible Dream: Low-Income Families and Their Hopes for the Future

Joanna Lucio, Anna Jefferson, Laura Peck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This article considers how some individuals and families who are low income think and dream about their futures and compares their thoughts with classic notions of the American Dream. Drawing on intensive interviews with individuals and families, the authors analyzed interviewees’ observations about their hopes and thoughts for the future. Five main themes emerge: stability, agency, and control; ideal home life; values about the home; aspirations for children; and obstacles to achieving dreams. In brief, the authors find that the low-income participants in our research have dreams that individuals and families who are more affluent might take for granted and that they appear to adopt neoliberal assumptions about achieving those dreams. These are dreams of getting by and have important implications for the expanding category of individuals and families who find themselves in similar economic situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-379
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Poverty
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • American dream
  • class
  • poverty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Sociology and Political Science


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