Rolling Stone Magazine considers this one of the greatest 500 songs (#439) of all time. Various American politicians have borrowed Pink Houses for their campaigns, and Mellencamp has performed it for President Obama.
The song is about equality of opportunity, a concept in part maintaining that people in a free society are able to achieve whatever dreams they might have.
Mellencamp’s verses suggest an America of such upward mobility is not so universally the case: an African American with a freeway practically running through his house is contrasted with a materially richer person that works in a downtown high rise office and is able to vacation in Mexico. Likewise, riffing on the promise that one day, anyone can grow up to be president, a young adult in the song once had this dream but it has died.
Much public policy thus works at identifying barriers to equality and economic mobility, and then designing and implementing solutions.