The American dream: fact or fiction?

Published On: Nov 08 2013 08:31:15 AM EST

You always see them in movies, a person going from rags to riches! New research shows it doesn't play out in real life.

According to a new Pew Charitable Trusts analysis, most Americans raised at the bottom of the income ladder never reach the middle rung.  The report examined the traits of those who are able to move up from their starting place at the bottom of the income ladder to the second rung, or even to the middle of the income distribution.

Polling found that 40 percent of Americans think that you can start poor, work hard, and become rich.

But that rags-to-riches story is more prevalent in Hollywood than in reality. In fact, from 1968 to 2009, the study found that just 4 percent of Americans who grew up at the bottom fifth of the household income ladder made it to the top fifth as adults.

What is the difference between those who move up from the bottom and those who don’t?

The Pew Research study found college graduates, people in dual-earner families, whites and those lucky enough to escape a bout of unemployment are the most likely to move up the ladder.

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