Americans today live very different lives than previous generations. Society has undergone a rapid transformation due to advances in communications technology, demographic changes, and political realignment. American family, community, and work life have each experienced evolution over the past few decades. How Americans are raised and how they think about their racial and ethnic and gender identities continue to evolve. Shifting patterns of religious affiliation and civic involvement are reshaping Americans’ communities. Meanwhile, rising religious and racial and ethnic diversity in the US has caused us to reevaluate traditional notions of American identity.  

The Survey Center on American Life, a project of the American Enterprise Institute, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to understanding the way cultural, political, and technological changes are shaping the lives of ordinary Americans. The Center conducts original survey research focusing on critical issues in American public and private life that are not often featured in public polling. We adhere to the highest standards in survey methodology and research practices, pursuing rigorous transparency in our approach to this work. The Center does not take political positions or advocate for particular policies.

We work closely with journalists, academics, nonprofit leaders, and others who are committed to using data and research to tell the complex and sometimes contradictory stories of American life. And to this end, we employ a combination of quantitative and qualitative research approaches to help highlight the unique perspectives and voices among the public.

Our goal is to produce impartial research and offer nuanced analysis to inform honest public debate, and encourage more thoughtful dialogue and constructive interactions among political leaders. We will challenge conventional wisdom about what Americans care about, the problems they face, and what we think of each other. We aim to move beyond national policy debates by offering a more comprehensive and contextual picture of the way Americans live, work, and socialize. In doing so, we hope to more thoroughly interrogate the origins of some of the enduring social and economic challenges facing the American public and better understand what makes Americans and American society unique.  

Recent Commentary

A young woman with curly blond hair stands alone on a red and green athletic court.

Daniel A. Cox
April 11, 2022

Gen Z is the Loneliest Generation — and It’s Their Parents Fault

Generation Z is impressive by any measure. They have more years of formal education and lower high-school dropout rates than any previous generation. They are more likely to avoid drug use and have lower rates of teen pregnancy. They are savvy consumers of information and users of technology. They are less prone to traffic in misinformation and conspiracy theories. But despite all

An African American teenager male attending church.

Daniel A. Cox
April 10, 2022

Stop Blaming Young People for Leaving Religion

Over the last decade, there has been a steady stream of news stories about how young people are abandoning their formative faith commitments. These articles frequently argue that despite their parents’ best efforts, young people are bent on forgoing any association with organized religion, along with all the benefits that come with it. This story is compelling, and

Daniel A. Cox
April 5, 2022

For Gen Z, Religious Pluralism Will Require Bridging the Religious-Secular Divide

For Generation Z, American religious life has been defined by its diversity. And religious pluralism has been as much practice as principle. Young adults today have close friends and family members spanning a variety of religious identities and beliefs. In a survey conducted by the Survey Center on American Life, we found that nearly one in five

A black and white photo of a man and woman sitting back-to-back in a train car.

Daniel A. Cox
March 13, 2022

We Live in a Nation of Strangers. That Needs to Change

Diversity is not the source of our current problems; our troubling incuriosity about our neighbors is driving disconnection.