SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson

"I like to call him because he often has time for actual conversations, which helps me learn more about an issue or issues and generally leads to broader story themes and ideas for future stories."
Tom Squitieri,

"Cal has great knowledge of how we got to where we are. He understands how government and politics work, [and] he has great credibility in analyzing a situation and predicting what's likely to happen and the implications of it for Joe Citizen."
Doug Fox, former political reporter,

Cal talks to Bob Moser, a contributing writer for The Nation, about the revival of the Texas Democratic Party. "Until three years ago, the Texas Democratic Party was just brain-dead and prostrate," he said. Read more.


Soaring gasoline prices, defaulting mortgages, outsourced jobs, skyrocketing college tuition and stagnant income growth have Americans anxious about the future. Has the American Dream -- the belief that anybody who works hard enough can move up the economic ladder -- become merely a talking point for politicians? How does a nation with increasing diversity and inequality keep the dream alive? Despite two long economic booms in the 1980s and 1990s, the dream has been fading for many Americans:

  • To save on labor costs, U.S. companies downsized mid-level managers in record numbers. Also the number of Americans without health insurance passed 43 million.
  • An increasing number of people are stuck in place economically, with no mobility either up or down.
  • College degrees are obtainable mostly by those whose parents already have money or education.

In Pursuing the American Dream: Opportunity and Exclusion Over Four Centuries (University Press of Kansas, 2004), Southern Methodist University Political Scientist Cal Jillson explores the origins of this cherished American ideal and the modern impediments to achieving it. With up-to-date studies showing how the dream has changed over time, Jillson recommends ways to keep it alive in the 21st century, among them:

  • At 47 percent of the labor force, women need to be paid equal to men and have the same opportunities, despite leaving temporarily for child rearing.
  • The federal government can help middle class, working class, and poor families with college by increasing Pell Grants, tax rebates and offering free tuition for good students.
  • Expand access to Medicaid and enroll more children in state-run health insurance plans to insure that struggling families have access to health care.
  • From housing to work to education, America needs to commit to affirmative action policies. Frequently asked by the national media to comment on politics, Jillson is an expert on the development of American institutions and third parties.

Pursuing the American Dream is Jillson's sixth book. It can be ordered from the University Press of Kansas by phone at 785-864-4155 or from their Web site (

To learn more about what Jillson can talk about, call SMU News and Communications at 214-768-7650.

# # #