NEW YORK—Drawing on national polling data and extensive personal interviews, social scientists confirmed that the concept of the American Dream, the widely held aspiration among U.S. citizens of achieving financial security and personal happiness, now consists entirely of receiving a substantial out-of-court settlement. “Whereas achieving the American Dream once meant rising to a stable position of prosperity through years of dedicated work and personal merit, the ideal has shifted in recent years to one of settling out of court for six or seven figures after months of protracted legal wrangling behind closed doors,” said Columbia University sociologist Dr. Adam Corigliano, stating that the vast majority of lower- and middle-class Americans now hope to achieve upward social mobility by making a legal claim against an immensely wealthy corporation or individual and then receiving a large lump sum in exchange for dropping the case and allowing the party to avoid any public admission of wrongdoing. “The idea that anyone in America, no matter who they are or where they came from, can make their way to the top is still very much alive, whether it involves filing a suit for harassment, negligence resulting in injury or death, or mistreatment at the hands of an employer or service provider. Aiming for a huge payoff so a high-profile celebrity or business can avoid a lengthy, publicly damaging trial is what unites us as Americans, regardless of our race, creed, or social standing—it’s what this country is all about.” Corigliano added, however, that statistics showed only a slim fraction of impoverished residents ever have the good fortune to become permanently disabled by a botched surgical procedure or lose an infant to a defective crib and thereby achieve their financial goals.