July 31, 2013 – Long before iPhones, the nation’s first black president, or even before Wikipedia had a domain name, American life was just turning the corner into another century.

This was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, health care reform, the housing bubble and its subsequent crash, and, the onset of the Recession. Yet over a decade later, all of these national events and more have changed—and continue to change—the cultural landscape of American life.

More than headlines, these events have had an effect on the inner lives of Americans—how we perceive ourselves. The Recession in particular has influenced Americans on a personal level. It was an economic fallout, but its consequences have reverberated through where Americans live, where they work, what they believe, how they spend their time and relate to friends and family. What’s more, the American Dream and its ideals of freedom, opportunity and the rise into prosperity also took a hit in the economic crash. All of this has changed the way Americans see themselves, their challenges, their opportunities and their future.

Barna Group’s most recent survey on the topic compares Americans’ descriptions of themselves from the early 2000s until now, illuminating how much American life has changed in the past decade, and how Americans see themselves moving forward into the future.

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