Only 50% of 30-year-olds now earn more than their parents did

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Thanks to a research team led by Harvard and Stanford professors, the traditionally abstract concept of the American Dream is now measurable. There is data to show just how few Americans are earning more money than their parents did.

The numbers don't look good for young people.

Those born in 1980, or today's 30-year-olds, have just a 50% chance of making more money than their parents.

By contrast, a kid born in 1940 had a 92% chance of earning more than their parents at the same age. For kids born in 1950, the likelihood of achieving that version of the American Dream had fallen to 79%. By 1960, that figure had dropped further to 62%.

Check out the chart provided by The Equality of Opportunity Project:

While a slow economy hasn't helped today's 30-year-olds, the main reason access to the American Dream appears to be fading is due to income inequality, David Leonhardt of The New York Times explains: "The rise of inequality has damaged the American dream more than the growth slowdown."

The single best solution, Leonhardt says, "would be to help more middle- and low-income children acquire the skills that lead to good-paying jobs."

After all, he notes, most college grads still go on to earn more than their parents did.

Fewer adult children earn more than their parents
Fewer adult children earn more than their parents

Of course, everyone's definition of the American Dream is different, and comparing earnings between parents and kids is just one way to measure it. It can mean owning your own home or being able to make a comfortable living, even if you come from poverty.

And some experts argue that the American dream is more accessible than ever, thanks to the ease and minimal costs of starting a business today.

"It's not going to die anytime soon," says self-made millionaire Steve Siebold of the American Dream. "If you want it, it's there for the taking."

American dream backfires for homeowner
American dream backfires for homeowner