Survey Reveals Geographic Illiteracy

November 20, 2002

See Survey Results and Test Yourself: Go>>

In a nation called the world's superpower, only 17 percent of young adults in the United States could find Afghanistan on a map, according to a new worldwide survey released today.

The young U.S. citizens received poor marks generally in geography. But then, as results showed, their counterparts in other countries were hardly star students.

The National Geographic–Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey polled more than 3,000 18- to 24-year-olds in Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden and the United States.

Sweden scored highest; Mexico, lowest. The U.S. was next to last.

"The survey demonstrates the geographic illiteracy of the United States," said Robert Pastor, professor of International Relations at American University, in Washington, D.C. "The results are particularly appalling in light of September 11, which traumatized America and revealed that our destiny is connected to the rest of the world."

About 11 percent of young citizens of the U.S. couldn't even locate the U.S. on a map. The Pacific Ocean's location was a mystery to 29 percent; Japan, to 58 percent; France, to 65 percent; and the United Kingdom, to 69 percent.

Are Young U.S. Citizens Americentric?

Despite the threat of war in Iraq and the daily reports of suicide bombers in Israel, less than 15 percent of the young U.S. citizens could locate either country.

More young U.S. citizens in the study knew that the island featured in last season's TV show "Survivor" is in the South Pacific than could find Israel.

Particularly humiliating was that all countries were better able to identify the U.S. population than many young U.S. citizens. Within the U.S., almost one-third said that population was between one billion and two billion; the answer is 289 million.

"It gives the sense that there is this Americentric thing going on—that we are big and powerful and have all these people in our country," said John Fahey, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society.

Continued on Next Page >>


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.