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Doctoral Student Seeks American Dreamers in Farmington, Farmington Hills

Jessica Wiederspan wants to talk for a few hours with people about their lives and beliefs, and she's offering $75 cash to those who qualify.

Jessica Wiederspan is looking for Farmington and Farmington Hills residents to interview for her doctoral thesis. Photo credit: Jessica Wiederspan
Jessica Wiederspan is looking for Farmington and Farmington Hills residents to interview for her doctoral thesis. Photo credit: Jessica Wiederspan
University of Michigan doctoral student Jessica Wiederspan wants to talk with Farmington and Farmington Hills residents about the "American dream".

And there's $75 in holiday cash for anyone who qualifies to take part in the study upon which she'll build the thesis she eventually hopes to publish

Wiederspan said she has always been interested in the American dream. The idea for the study sprang from her own look into how it would play out for her own family. Before starting graduate school, she projected her income and her husband's after they both completed graduate school, then calculated the expenses that come with the American dream, including a modest home and two inexpensive cars.

"At the end... I was $300 in the hole every month," she said. 

Widerspan wanted to know how the dream plays out for families today and what people think about it, in very different areas. She selected Farmington/Farmington Hills and Flint. 

"American society is built on the idea that if you work hard, you should succeed," she said. However, she added, social science data shows that whether you're born near the bottom or top, chances are good you'll stay there. "There is some movement, but not as much as people think." 

In order to gather data, Wiederspan is looking for people who:
  • Have an oldest or only child in 5th - 10th grade 
  • Are currently working at least 10 hours/week
  • Are married or living with a partner who also works at least 10 hours/ week
Participants engage in a 2-3 hour conversation that Wiederspan records. By coding the responses, she's able to gather the data without identifying information, so that everyone's privacy is protected. The tapes, she said, are destroyed once they've been transcribed. 

Every research project that involves working with people, she said, is vetted through a research board. "It's all about ethics and confidentiality." 

Wiederspan would like to do a number of interviews before the holidays. To participate, sign up at americandreamresearch.com

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