Quantifying What Success Means, According to 2,000 Americans
The pursuit of success is a part of our cultural DNA.
Almost everyone wants to be successful – and many see it as the basis of the American Dream, which promises that every person can achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.
However, despite a drive for obtaining success in our culture, the meaning of success isn’t fixed. It can be different things to different people, and there is no possible way of defining success in a way that is representative of every individual person.
Although there’s no objective definition of success, there are other ways to arrive at a more impartial meaning.
Today’s infographic from Thermosoft uses data from a survey of 2,000 Americans to show what “making it” means to them – and in the process, it gives us a baseline for what success means to the average person.
Survey respondents were asked what “making it” in America meant to them, and then that was compared to what they have.
A variety of individual factors were measured, and each fell within certain categories that could be important to one’s success, including career, family life, wealth, and travel.
Success, on Average
The survey data gives us a view of what success means, on average – and how close people are to “making it”.
Respondents viewed $147,104 of income as “successful”, and this is the area people were furthest away from their ideal.
The average income of respondents was $57,426 – and 67% of respondents said that money was the major missing part of their equation for success.
Respondents viewed 31 hours of work per week, a 10 minute commute, 5.3 weeks of time off, and working more from home as their ideal situation.
However, respondents were a little off on most of these measures, and far off for vacation time. The average person is working 34 hours per week, commuting 17 minutes, taking 2.8 weeks of time off, and working more from the office.
Notably, for 22% of people, a dream job was the missing part of their success equation.
Friends and Family
Respondents viewed marriage and kids, as well as four best friends, as ideal. On average, respondents fell slightly short here, though.
How much would your home and vehicle be worth, if you “made it”? About $461,000 and $41,986 respectively.
Respondents fell short here, with $248,000 and $15,789 values for their home and vehicle.
Since success is subjective, the sense of what is “missing” varies considerably.
On average, income was the most important missing factor (67%) and a dream job was also a popular response (22%). Relationships and recognition were both 7%, respectively.
Answers also varied by group – for example, millennials were more likely to say their dream job was the missing factor.
While success may never be defined exactly for all people at all times, this is still an interesting amalgamation of the views that people have towards the subject.
Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve
Public trust in the Federal Reserve chair has hit its lowest point in 20 years. Get the details in this infographic.
- Gallup conducts an annual poll to gauge the U.S. public’s trust in the Federal Reserve
- After rising during the COVID-19 pandemic, public trust has fallen to a 20-year low
Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve
Each year, Gallup conducts a survey of American adults on various economic topics, including the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve.
More specifically, respondents are asked how much confidence they have in the current Fed chairman to do or recommend the right thing for the U.S. economy. We’ve visualized these results from 2001 to 2023 to see how confidence levels have changed over time.
Methodology and Results
The data used in this infographic is also listed in the table below. Percentages reflect the share of respondents that have either a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence.
|Year||Fed chair||% Great deal or Fair amount|
Data for 2023 collected April 3-25, with this statement put to respondents: “Please tell me how much confidence you have [in the Fed chair] to recommend the right thing for the economy.”
We can see that trust in the Federal Reserve has fluctuated significantly in recent years.
For example, under Alan Greenspan, trust was initially high due to the relative stability of the economy. The burst of the dotcom bubble—which some attribute to Greenspan’s easy credit policies—resulted in a sharp decline.
On the flip side, public confidence spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was likely due to Jerome Powell’s decisive actions to provide support to the U.S. economy throughout the crisis.
Measures implemented by the Fed include bringing interest rates to near zero, quantitative easing (buying government bonds with newly-printed money), and emergency lending programs to businesses.
Confidence Now on the Decline
After peaking at 58%, those with a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the Fed chair have tumbled to 36%, the lowest number in 20 years.
This is likely due to Powell’s hard stance on fighting post-pandemic inflation, which has involved raising interest rates at an incredible speed. While these rate hikes may be necessary, they also have many adverse effects:
- Negative impact on the stock market
- Increases the burden for those with variable-rate debts
- Makes mortgages and home buying less affordable
Higher rates have also prompted many U.S. tech companies to shrink their workforces, and have been a factor in the regional banking crisis, including the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.
Where does this data come from?
Source: Gallup (2023)
Data Notes: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted April 3-25, 2023, with a random sample of –1,013—adults, ages 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on this sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. See source for details.
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