The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness: The Shifting Narrative of Suburbia and the American Dream

This work was published as my Master’s thesis in 2016.

Suburbia and the American Dream have long, complex history in the United States. As the visual manifestation of the American Dream since the mid-twenty first century, suburbia has been criticized for being placeless, unhealthy, discriminatory, and wasteful. Alternative development methods have been created to combat the growth of suburban sprawl to create “places worth caring about” (Kunstler, 2007). This research study, through the methodology of oral history, uses in-depth interviews and morphological study to continue the narrative of suburbia and the American Dream as it exists in two alternative developments in Central Iowa: Prairie Trail in Ankeny and Glynn Village in Waukee. Through the research process, the role of these development types within the narrative became clearer: Morphology can create a sense of community and belonging; perceptions are shifting away from false conventional wisdom of the past; nostalgia plays a role in decision-making for the future; and there has been a generational shift from an American Dream that prioritized financial security to an American Dream of the pursuit of happiness.

Click here to access the PDF of the thesis.