March 30, 2014
It’s no surprise that Americans aren’t especially knowledgeable when it comes to matters of geography. National Geographic’s 2006 Geographic Literacy Survey of Americans aged 18 to 24 resulted in some rather unpleasant findings: Only 50% could identify New York on an unlabeled map, and a mere 43% could locate Ohio. And while 67% could find Louisiana, just 52% knew which state was Mississippi.
When quizzed on the location of 7 states, the survey respondents could only correctly identify an average of 3.4. The good news is that 94% do know where the United States itself is – the bad news is that 3 out of 10 thought the U.S. population was between 1 to 2 billion.
Other findings aren’t much more promising. When a BuzzFeed writer asked people to draw a U.S. map on a blank sheet of paper, the results ranged from serious efforts, to the outright comical, to giving up entirely – even when the maps weren’t full of “I don’t know” and “???,” entire regions of the country were often absent. Furthermore, New Mexico Magazine runs an ongoing column recounting stories of Americans who were unaware that New Mexico is a state at all, which seems funny until you realize that these people are working as bank tellers, postal workers, and even travel agents.