Your American Dream Score:
While hard work contributes to success, each of us have encountered different people, experiences, systems, and services that have helped or hindered our efforts.
If your life had a soundtrack, it might include Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, as a sign of what you've done with the opportunities you've had.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR SCORE?
Using the links above, share your score and how you feel about it on social media. Feel free to tag people you want to thank and encourage others to find their score. And don’t forget to use hashtag #mydreamscore.
If you’re feeling a renewed sense of gratitude for what has helped you, let people know. Reach out to those teachers, mentors, friends, or family members and tell them what they have meant to you and your life.
Consider volunteering or providing support to the kinds of programs or organizations, like those listed below, that helped you and others, so they can continue to help more people move up in life.
If you’re feeling frustrated that you did not have enough “wind at your back,” it’s never too late to take advantage of knowledge and services that can help. Organizations like LIFT, The United Way, the Boys and Girls Club of America, Health Leads and many others can help point you in the right direction, depending on your level and area of need. We are currently working on a more comprehensive list of resources and organizations that have proven track records of helping people move up in life.
If you want to learn more about any of the factors that may have helped or hindered your efforts, explore the factors below. Inside each tab are links to research, reading and more tools to continue your journey.
We will also be creating a discussion guide for schools and other organizations to help facilitate conversations in a group setting. In the interim, we encourage you to discuss your score with your friend and families and talk about the different factors that are working for and against you.
If you have any questions about the tool or our efforts in general, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Factors that helped you move up
You had a better job market when you graduatedHad a pretty good childhoodPretty good bill of healthWorked pretty hardBenefited from public goods and services
Factors you worked to overcome
Needed to develop strong character traits to copeFriends not always in best position to help Your parents may have struggled to give you all you neededGrew up in a place that it was hard for people to move upNot a lot of educational supportEncountered some pretty bad luckSome may have held your race against you.You were more likely to be discriminated against based on gender
WHAT YOUR SCORE MEANS
We realize it’s impossible to quantify how or why you ended up where you did in life. This calculator simply asks you to look at what worked in your favor, and what you had to put in work to overcome. Each question is based on a different factor that studies show have an impact on where we end up in life. While research generally shows that some factors correlate more to success than others, that doesn’t mean they were more important to you personally. Because of this, we don’t weight any one factor as more important than any other. And we certainly aren’t judging your current station in life--people define and experience success differently. Regardless of where you ended up, we’re showing how much you had the wind at your back or in your face as you worked to get there.
To learn more about the research behind the score, we encourage you to dive in deeper below.
Who are you?
The first several questions were basic demographic questions about your gender, race, and age. While levels of discrimination might not be what they once were, they certainly do exist. On average, women still earn less than men for doing the same job. Implicit biases result in people not being given the same opportunities (take this test to see where you stack up). And the year you were born determines the job market you encounter as an adult - some better than others.
Few factors are more important than your parents. If they are college-educated, you are more likely to go to college. Their income also greatly affects the opportunities you have.
While having two parents who are engaged in your life tends to be more beneficial, it is most important to have at least one parent who is there to help you make sense of any difficulties you experienced, especially as a child.
Where You Grew Up
In his Equality of Opportunity Project, researcher Raj Chetty has identified five factors that are correlated to neighborhoods that promote upward mobility: two parent households, good schools, high social capital, and low segregation and inequity.
Click here to see how the childhood neighborhood you grew up in measures up when it comes to helping people get ahead.
Children are by nature resilient, but some have significantly more to overcome than others--including high levels of stress or trauma.
The Adverse Childhood Experience test is a tool pediatricians use to measure levels of childhood trauma. Two of our questions here are drawn from this screener, which have been shown to predict ACE scores of 4 or higher with 75% accuracy. Elevated ACE scores correlate to significantly higher incidences of negative life outcomes like dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, incarceration, and suicide. Take the full screener here.
When you are sick or ill, it impacts your ability to learn, work, and live a happy life. It also creates financial hardships and decreases opportunities for success.
The Children’s Health Fund recently identified seven different health barriers to learning and life success. The Centers for Disease Control has also developed standardized screening questions that determine how health impacts your quality of life.
Research shows a direct correlation between how much education a person has, their future income, and the length of their life. There have also been studies pointing to the importance of good teachers in helping people succeed. One study measuring the real value of a good kindergarten teacher put their worth as high as a $250,000 salary.
Finally, getting to college is only half the battle. The Century Foundation uncovered several traits that are critical to helping strivers actually finish college.
Robert Frank’s book Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy, examines how luck can shape a person’s life unexpectedly. Chance encounters with people, random events and decisions made by others randomly shape our lives in subtle ways that often go largely unnoticed.
On an anecdotal level, we can all recognize the importance of having good friends who support us. But research shows this goes much deeper. The work of sociologist Nicholas Christakis examines this impact, and shows that not only do our friends impact our level of education, income and health-- their friends have an impact on us, too.
One recent study showed that people land up to 80% of jobs through networking, underscoring the importance of having a strong social network.
We tend to notice the obstacles in front of us more than the tailwinds at our backs. This is especially true when it comes to public services. In her book Submerged State, Suzanne Mettler examines the extent to which these services are invisible-- even as their wide impact is clear. Over 85% of children attend public schools. Two-thirds of students receive financial aid. The majority of Americans have received food and nutritional benefits for themselves or their children at some point. All of us use public roads and take advantage of government-funded science--which helped develop the Internet, among other things we rely on every day.
Several books have examined the characteristics that are prevalent in people who are happy or successful. Books like Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed, Roy Baumeister’s Willpower and Carol Dweck’s The Growth Mindset: The New Psychology of Success do an excellent job at presenting the correlation between character and life outcomes.
Ironically, there is little research that quantifies the impact of work on future success. Some studies have suggested that it takes an average of 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert or master in a field. Yet that has been questioned. What we do know is that Americans believe that hard work is the most essential component to being successful. The extent to which this belief is hardwired into our thinking can be found in the work of Paul Piff, specifically his Monopoly study.