The New American Dream: Charleston, South Carolina

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By Mark A. Leon

Charleston, South Carolina may be the blueprint for the new American Dream.

The plight of the millennial generation and the Southern migration is in full swing; and its convergence of both may have defined the new American Dream. Not surprisingly, at the center of this cultural movement could be a new cultural capital: Charleston, South Carolina. This bold statement is based on several key indicators, factors and shifts in lifestyle thinking and action.

Key social and economic indicators

? The millennial generation is choosing to not have children at a young age, have less children or have none.
? Alternative careers (working from home, self-ownership, digital storefronts and entrepreneurial thinking) are challenging the traditional 9-5 career path norms.
? The stagnation of Northern urban, suburban growth and migration to the South is emerging new corporate capitals and career opportunities in the warmer Southern regions of the United States.
? A shift from conservative to liberal ideals, coupled by stronger expansions in ethnic and cultural diversity, are creating rises in liberal mid-sized urban geographies
? The need for work life balance time away from work a critical need in today’s workforce
? Personal brand is extending past professional boundaries into personal and family life

New American Family

? Young, trendy and fashionable couples with two dogs
? A desire to have the conveniences of city life with elements of escapism and tranquility
? Healthy lifestyle options
? Recreational idealism
? Separation from the traditional ideals of family and valuing fresh ideas and lifestyles
? Mobility
? Transience
? Creating a personal family brand
? Taking more risk
? Alternative career paths

Defined recently as the East Coast Silicon Valley, Charleston has changed from a recreational center of pleasure to a business hub nodding national recognition. ?With 4.2 million visitors annually, a top five Instagram U.S. market, 120K new residential units in development, top 5 wedding destination, home to one of the largest international festivals in the world, a culture thriving in festivals, craft beer, theater and sports, number 2 port on the East Coast, four area beaches and corporate growth extending West, Charleston is emerging as the mecca of the new American Dream.

Breaking down the trends and linkage to Charleston

? The millennial generation is less focused on childbearing and more focused on personal passions, careers and wellness through animal companionship. ?It has been said by some that Charlestonians care more for their dogs than other humans. Though humorous, there is some truth in that statement. With adoption events, fundraisers and one of the most dog friendly cities in the U.S., Charleston is embracing?its love for our four-legged creatures. From dog-friendly festivals to doggy days at the RiverDogs baseball games, dogs are a very important part of family in Charleston.

? Life balance – With urban pressures, many are seeking new avenues of escapism. ?The idea of living in a major metro and escaping for a weekend getaway is not a new trend, but the geographic structure of Charleston has created the perfect setting for living out that balance. ?With four area beaches within 45 minutes, thousands of miles of hiking and nature trails and the Western Carolina mountains just 3 hours West, Charleston offers the comforts of city life with the accessibility of spontaneous escape to recharge.

? Healthy lifestyle options – Charleston has seen a rise in fitness, spiritual and physical balance and healthy eating options. ?The rise of vegan, gluten free and organic restaurants and grocers, expansion of farmer’s markets held daily in various cities, and Pilates and yoga classes in studios, parks and beaches demonstrates a real dedication to health and wellness. ?In fact, on John’s Island, there is a Yoga with Goats outdoor event held weekly.

? Recreational idealism with a focus on brand and quality – Charleston is becoming a mecca of local craft beer. ?With almost 35 unique craft brewing houses, Charleston is putting quality into recreation. Combined with fundraising events, pet adoptions, local music, yoga and festivals, the craft beer community is leading the effort to put quality into R&R.

? Separation from traditional generational ideals of parents. ?The United States is becoming more and more of a transient culture. ?As the growth in Northern metros and residential living stagnates and more migration is seeking refuge in the untapped South, once small cities are becoming mid to large market metros. ?Many offer attractive incentives to companies to move or expand their operations to these new centers of migration. Charleston has not only become a home to Boeing, BMW, Blackbaud, Ingevity, BenefitFocus and Volvo, but more television and film productions are using Charleston as a hub for film production.


? Many younger couples and families are choosing to leave behind the traditional conservative thinking of parents for a new individualistic entrepreneurial way of life. ?Many are forgoing the traditional idea of a 9-5 career of working all your life and raising a family and seeking out alternative careers focused on individual happiness. ?Charleston small and individual business owners account for over 60% of all product and service offerings in this community. From farmer’s markets, to food trucks, food carts, breweries, to small brick and mortar shops, the small business owner has made a statement in Charleston and they are here to stay.

? Where YouTube was a hub for creating a personal brand for musicians, actors and comedians, Instagram is becoming the hub for family brand. ?We no longer are reliant on professional photographers for wedding, holiday and annual family pictures. Today, families want the day in the park with the dog photo shoot, picnic at the beach, hiking in the mountains and more. ?As you wander through the streets of Charleston, seeing a photo shoot is as common as a carriage ride. It is the new medium of staying relevant.


Each generation sets its place in history by defining a new set of behaviors. ?Some influenced by a rebellion from the previous generation, mistrust of leadership, media influence, technology, free thinking, music or shifts in ideals, but no matter what the combination, a change is in the forefront and it is shifting the geographical, economy, professional and lifestyle landscape in America. ?There is one region that is molding itself into the ideology of this new way of life.