Bob McKinnon, 67%: What Does My Number Mean?

What’s Your American Dream Score? Take the quiz. Share your score and story.

Editor’s Note: Bob McKinnon is an author and founder of GALEWiLL, an organization that designs social change programs including the opportunity quiz Your American Dream Score.

I was the first person to find my American Dream Score and I have probably taken this quiz more than a hundred times. Neither of which should be surprising given I was a member of the team that created it.

My score is 67 symbolizing that while I had many factors working against me I had just as many working in my favor.

Like many people, I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how I ended up here. After all, given my poor start in life, statistically speaking, I’m not supposed to be where I am.

Most of my life, I’ve been told that through my hard work, good education, and individual initiative, I earned my way here. But as I learned more about poverty, opportunity and social mobility through my work with foundations and organizations immersed in these issues, I realized that was only half the story.

Moving Up: The Truth About Getting Ahead in America is my first attempt to set the record straight. It’s both a personal narrative and a collection of research that tries to tell a more nuanced story about how we end up where we do.

The American Dream Score is a logical distillation of all this. In just 5 minutes, I was able to answer thirteen questions about my life that instantly translated years of research into my personal score.

The early questions reflected those factors from my early years that could have held me back: growing up in place where mobility is rare, experiencing many difficulties as a child, having parents who weren’t in a position to help me as much as they would have liked.

But as I moved on with the questions, it became clearer what factors helped me move up, at one point checking every single positive option within education, and about my friends and the majority of those within public services.

I was also reminded about what separated my life experience from those closest to me, including my sister. Realizing that my health and good fortune helped me move up as much as her health and poor fortune may have held her back.

I realize it’s impossible to quantify how or why someone ended up where they did in life. Each person is the best score keeper of their own life. When I reflected on my score of 67, it felt right. I knew I had a lot to overcome, but I also knew that I had a lot of things that ultimately worked in my favor. I was left feeling a small sense of pride but also an incredible amount of gratitude and appreciation

I realize others may have different reactions to their scores.

Earlier as I was monitoring traffic on our site, I saw a big spike associated with a post on PBS’s Facebook page. As the numbers climbed, I was excited that more people were participating. But as I began to read people’s comments I was given a poignant reminder of what was really happening.

These were real people taking five minutes of out of their life, looking for something. Some received comfort, gratitude, and compassion. A few were agitated or frustrated by what their score represented. One woman who had one of the highest scores I had scene (meaning she had almost everything working against her), wrote, “That was amazingly depressing.”

It was a stark reminder that a quiz like this should be the beginning of a journey not an end in and of itself. I wanted to reach out to that woman and assure her that her journey was not over and there were ways in which more factors could be put to work in her favor.

In the months to come we hope to add more resources to help guide not just more productive conversations but more meaningful actions that people can take for themselves and that we as a society can do for others.

Until then as we reflect on our scores or those of others, just remember that this number no more defines us than any other number in our life, like our age or income or zip code. Nor is it set in stone predicting our future fate.

It is a simple snapshot of what may have led us to where we are today. Hopefully providing a clearer picture of where we can go tomorrow. Ultimately behind every number is a life lived and a journey that continues on.



Your American Dream Score is an initiative of Moving Up, an online platform designed to create a new conversation about what it takes to get ahead in America.  Both were created by Bob McKinnon, author and founder of GALEWiLL, an organization that designs social change programs. Digital design for the tool was done by Sol Design.

Your American Dream Score asks respondents to answer 13 questions about their life. Each question represents a factor that research shows correlates to social mobility and/or happiness in life. Similarly, all of the options within each question are also based on specific research related to mobility or positive life outcomes.  Once completed they receive a composite score and a list of factors working for and against them.  The higher your score, the more you had to overcome.  The lower the score, the more you had working in your favor. People are also given a link to a song that symbolizes their journey (i.e. gratitude, struggle, pride). With score in hand, people are then encouraged to take an action —  including sharing it with others, thanking those that helped them get ahead, diving deeper into each factor and connecting them with organizations that help people move up in life.

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