Jenny Jinx tweeted (244 retweets, 31 favorites)

Seriously, the Czech Republic released a statement to correct stupid Americans. I am so ashamed. Good grief. http://bit.ly/11mROu5

The linked press release states that the Czech Republic is not the same as Chechnya, though it doesn't state that Americans in particular were confused about that.

I've heard this kind of claim before, about Americans being ignorant about the rest of the world, and of its geography. For example, Americans’ Geographical Ignorance and Disinclination to Travel Abroad and Study Finds Young Americans Ignorant of Geography.

Are Americans more likely than the worldwide average to be ignorant about the geography of the world?

  • 1
    What are you looking for as a way to quantify the ignorance in answers to this question? Depending upon the school system you may actually have to learn a fair amount of geography as a child (personally I had to memorize all of the countries at the time) that could have been lost with age unless you have to know it for some reason.
    – rjzii
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 13:36
  • 5
    Relevant XKCD
    – user3490
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 23:22
  • 5
    I'd be interested in such a test scored with the each question weighted by the distance between the student's home and the place that's the subject of the question. The average US student lives someplace where "other countries" are farther from him than people from smaller countries. For example, if you ask a French student questions about other European countries, that's the practical equivalent of asking an American about neighboring states (in terms of distance and daily practicality). Does the average French student know more than a US student about someplace far away like China? Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 20:00
  • The countries in Europe are more like the states in the United States in terms of size. People from outside the United States can be pretty bad at identifying states on a map of America. Most Americans can probably identify Italy and France but might have trouble with Czech Repulic, the same way Europeans can identify Florida and Texas but have trouble with New York or Nevada
    – Kip
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


In 2002, the National Geographic Society gave over 300 in-home interviews per country for a selection of nine countries, and gave a geography quiz testing knowledge of current events, international issues, map-reading skills, and world geography.

American young people were ranked eighth out of the nine countries, (up from worst in previous studies), beating Mexico.

Ref, via BBC

In 2006, the study was followed up, but in the USA only, making it interesting but not useful for this answer.

  • 4
    I'm a little distrusting of this survey, because I'm worried that the creators of the survey may want to generate a certain conclusion (that people are ignorant, and since this was commissioned by an American organization, that Americans are ignorant). However, I doubt that it'd be possible for the differences between countries in the survey to be the result of bias by the survey.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 22:03
  • 2
    The survey (talking about history, not geography) mentioned by telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1458483/… and geolsoc.org.uk/~/… comes to mind. They asked a lot of questions about historical facts that seemed implausible, such as the Battle of the Bulge and Ethelred the Unready.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 22:13
  • 2
    The "Ref" and follow-up links are broken
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 23:04

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