Fraction of U.S.
Fraction of Swedish
Fraction of U.K.
Don’t know much about …
A measure of U.S. science literacy has increased — to 28%
By Janet Raloff
Over the past two decades, science
literacy —an estimate of the share of
adults who can follow complex science issues and maybe even render an
informed opinion on them — has nearly
tripled in the United States. To a meager
U.S. adults had to answer such questions as What is a stem cell? What is
an experiment? True or false: Nuclear
power plants contribute to the destruction of Earth’s ozone layer. To be deemed
literate, people had to get at least 70 percent of the answers right, explained Jon
Miller of Michigan State University in
The new U.S. rate, which he reported
February 21, is based on questionnaires
administered in 2008. Sweden, the only
European nation to exceed U.S. science
literacy, ranked seven percentage points
higher on a 2005 survey. The U.S. figure
exceeds slightly the 2005 science liter-
acy in Denmark, Finland, Norway and
the Netherlands and is double the rate
in the United Kingdom.
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