Table 7-4
Correct answers to scientific literacy questions, by sex: 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2008
Question 2001 2004 2006 2008
Physical science        
The center of the Earth is very hot. (True)        
Male 85 86 85 88
Female 76 72 75 80
All radioactivity is man-made. (False)        
Male 81 82 77 74
Female 71 66 64 67
Lasers work by focusing sound waves. (False)        
Male 61 59 62 64
Female 30 28 32 34
Electrons are smaller than atoms. (True)        
Male 52 52 61 59
Female 43 39 48 47
The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move. (True)        
Male 83 85 85 82
Female 74 71 75 73
Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? (Earth around Sun)        
How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun? (One year)        
Malea 66 NA 66 58
Femalea 42 NA 46 44
Biological science        
It is the father's gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl. (True)        
Male 58 51 55 53
Female 72 70 72 71
Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria. (False)        
Male 46 49 50 47
Female 55 58 61 60
A doctor tells a couple that their genetic makeup means that they've got one in four chances of having a child with an inherited illness. (1) Does this mean that if their first child has the illness, the next three will not? (No); (2) Does this mean that each of the couple's children will have the same risk of suffering from the illness? (Yes)        
Male 68 67 72 66
Female 67 62 67 63
Two scientists want to know if a certain drug is effective against high blood pressure. The first scientist wants to give the drug to 1,000 people with high blood pressure and see how many of them experience lower blood pressure levels. The second scientist wants to give the drug to 500 people with high blood pressure and not give the drug to another 500 people with high blood pressure, and see how many in both groups experience lower blood pressure levels. Which is the better way to test this drug? Why is it better to test the drug this way?
(The second way because a control group is used for comparison)
Maleb 39 49 42 37
Femaleb 38 43 41 39

NA = not available

a Data represent composite of correct responses to both questions. Second question only asked if first question answered correctly. No composite percentage computed for 2004 because second question not asked.
b Data represent a composite of correct responses to both questions.

SOURCES: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, Survey of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology (2001); University of Michigan, Survey of Consumer Attitudes (2004); and University of Chicago, National Opinion Research Center, General Social Survey (2006, 2008). See appendix tables 7-9 and 7-10 for factual knowledge questions. See appendix tables 7-13 and 7-14 for scientific process questions (probability and experiment).

Science and Engineering Indicators 2010