Boomers: What’s Your American Dream Story?

(Editor’s Note: This story is part of a partnership between Chasing the Dream and Next Avenue.)

By: Richard Eisenberg

Have boomers achieved the American Dream? And, more to the point, if you’re a boomer — age 53 to 71 — have you?

The first question is a tricky one, but an approximate answer will follow shortly.

The second question is actually an easier one to answer, though. That’s because you can take the American Dream Quiz on the PBS Chasing the Dream site to get Your American Dream Score.

The American Dream Quiz

The American Dream quiz, from the Moving Up initiative and made possible with support from the Ford Foundation, is easy and quick; just 13 multiple-choice questions about your life. Each represents a factor that correlates to social mobility and/or happiness in life. When you get your score, you’ll find out which factors were working in your favor and learn what you had to overcome to get where you are today. Our experiences, after all, are a big factor shaping how we think about the American Dream.

The higher your score, the more you had to overcome; the lower your score, the more you had working in your favor.

Your American Dream Score

The people who’ve shared their Your American Dream Score results on the Chasing the Dream site had results ranging from 49 percent (an immigrant software engineer) to 90 percent (a teenage girl from North Carolina). Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey scored 60 percent.

As a 61-year-old boomer raised in an upper middle-class suburban New Jersey home who graduated from Northwestern University without any student loans, I’ve had a lot working in my favor. That explains my low American Dream score: 49 percent.

One of Next Avenue’s Influencers in Aging, the Fifty-five, Unemployed and Faking Normal author Elizabeth White, took the quiz, too. You’ll see her score and her essay about it at the end of this post.

What Your American Dream Score Says

Research by Paul Piff, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California Irvine, and Angela Robinson, a Ph.D. student there, have found that people who experience more advantages in their lives are less likely to recognize how external factors (like the state of the economy, their race and gender, a stable home life and the presence of loving parents and mentors) shape people’s lives.

They wrote on the Chasing the Dream site that the Your American Dream Score calculator addresses these biases “by helping people recognize and acknowledge their own advantages alongside the factors that they themselves have worked for, like their education and professional success.”

Share Your American Dream Story

After you take the American Dream quiz, share your American Dream story on the Chasing the Dream site, as many already have, including McGreevey. Describe the obstacles and advantages you’ve had, either in an essay of under 600 words or in a short YouTube or Vimeo video. You might even want to thank people who’ve helped you get ahead.

Doing so could help keep a national conversation going about the American Dream. As the Chasing the Dream folks say: “If we want to engage people on the issues like poverty, inequality and opportunity, then we must find new ways to bring them into the conversation.”

This story is part of our partnership with Next Avenue. Next Avenue is public media’s first and only national journalism service for America’s booming older population. Their daily content delivers vital ideas, context and perspectives on issues that matter most as we age.