(ABC) - Millions of Americans are working harder than ever, but feel they are falling further behind. For so many the American Dream’s opportunities seem to have changed since the days when they were growing up.
A year and a half ago ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer and team connected on social media with thousands of working Americans from across the country to hear their stories and received video diaries on the reality of their lives.
The team set out across the nation to bring these stories into focus – a startling portrait of struggle, frustration and anxiety that explores what it means to be the first generation of middle class Americans in half a century who are more likely than not to earn less than their parents.
A series of raw and revealing reports uncovers how close to the edge so many Americans live. More than 8 million Americans work multiple jobs. Almost half of Americans would be unable to cover their weekly expenses if hit by an emergency costing $400.
ABC News finds a man working full time, but sleeping in a storage unit in the same apartment building where he once lived; a man selling his blood plasma to buy a birthday present for his child; and young children sleeping overnight at daycares while their parents work a night shift.
In America where workers put in more hours than others in most countries in the western world, there are parallel realities: people who earn huge bonuses and get free food at work while others near them keep their jobs by sleeping in cars in the parking lot.
For more than a year, ABC News followed dramatic, riveting and unexpected turns in the daily lives of middle class Americans struggling to live the life they once knew growing up. The team traveled coast to coast to more than a dozen cities documenting reality in the lives of firefighters and fast food workers, Silicon Valley employees and college professors – and reporting on their hopes and hardships.
What does it take to stay in the middle class today? Viewers can compare their lives to the surprising statistics to what now actually defines middle class. After a tumultuous election and with a new president with new promises – what will change?
ABC News will follow these people during and through this transition. Sawyer and the team also report on solutions to this crisis proposed by American workers, and the stunning difference some companies have made when their leaders reach out to create change.
“My Reality: A Hidden America” airs on a special edition of “20/20” Friday, Jan. 13.