American Dream deferred, not dead

The Great Recession didn’t kill the American Dream. But the promise of a good life in exchange for hard, honest work was bruised, frayed and kicked further down the road for millions of middle-class Americans.

Eighteen months ago, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution set out to chronicle the recession’s impact on a cross-section of Atlanta. The timing for this third installment of the American Dream series is opportune: The recession started three Decembers ago.

The stories illuminate the impact that the worst economic downturn since World War II has had on Atlanta and, ultimately, ourselves.

While their experiences are unique, their struggles are universal. Walle Waters couldn’t find a job for two years until he quit Atlanta for Orlando. Delilah Smith struggles with a small business in Suwanee, a Duluth home threatened by foreclosure and a sick daughter. The Rays, Laura and Chris, live a newly frugal life borne of past joblessness and future uncertainty.

But they all survived, albeit with lesser expectations and a diminished lifestyle that might very well be the true legacy of the Great Recession.