By Joe Carr

I’m a volunteer for Media Literacy Now and a semi-retired Cisco Systems executive focused on sales strategy, planning, and market analysis. I use my business experience to help expand media literacy education in the U.S. As part of my work, I’ve added to the Open Society Institute’s 2021 Media Literacy Index to create a more comprehensive, modified Media Literacy Index (MLI).

The original Open Society Institute MLI ranked 35 European countries. By adding data from nine additional countries, I was able to create a broader global portrait of media literacy education. I chose the additional countries based on the availability of roughly-comparable data. The spreadsheet with my full report is available at the bottom of this page.

With the modified MLI, I was also able to see where the United States ranked in comparison to many other developed countries. I hope that information will help support the efforts of U.S.-based media literacy organizations seeking legislation and funding.

How does the U.S. compare to other countries?

Overall, I found that the U.S. lags behind many other countries in areas that indicate effective media literacy education it’s ranked 15th of 44 countries. (By comparison, Canada ranks 4th.) The rankings of the nine new countries are below:

  • Australia (#10)
  • Canada (#4)
  • Colombia (#42)
  • Israel (#28)
  • Japan (#16)
  • Korea (#11)
  • Mexico (#43)
  • New Zealand (#8)
  • United States (#15)

With the OSI data, I was able to make the following high-level statements about how the U.S. ranks relative to the other 43 countries:

  • The U.S. is not a leader in press freedoms, ranking 18th from Freedom House and 27th from Reporters Without Borders.
  • The U.S. ranks high (5th) in percentage of adults with university degrees with strength in reading literacy (9th), but the US trails many countries in science (13th) and math (29th) literacy.
  • The U.S. is strong in technology-based civic engagement (3rd in e-participation), but is behind eleven other countries in trust in others (12th).

Limits of the new index

Adding the nine new counties required some degree of analytical manipulation to approximate fair comparisons with the original 35 countries, so these rankings may not be absolutely accurate. Rather, the rankings are rough estimates based on available data.

Additionally, the MLI is not a direct measure of media literacy education. Instead, the MLI is simply a rough estimate of resilience to disinformation. This estimate is based on proxy measures such as press freedoms, literacy, education levels, trust, and citizen participation. Directly measuring media literacy education progress is not feasible until national or worldwide standards are set.


My analysis is based on the original 2021 Media Literacy Index for European countries. The following data manipulations and assumptions were required to add nine additional countries:

  • For the Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders), I replaced 2020 data (from the 2021 MLI report) with 2021 data.
  • For the Share of Population with a University Degree, OSI European data appears to be 2018 data based on ages 15-64 (although I believe that source has an “ages-25-64” category option, which might have been a better measure). I changed all OSI (ages 15-64) data to 2019 or 2020 data, depending on what was available for each country.
  • For the Trust scores, I determined that the OSI source was Eurofound (NOT ESAT) for 2016 (published in 2018). Trust scores for my nine added countries came from World Values Survey results (from 1998 to 2014, depending on country) converted to the 0-10 scale used in the Eurofound data by running a linear regression for countries that showed up in both sources. I used this formula to convert World Values Survey (W) scores to Eurofound (E) equivalent scores: E = 0.04835 x W + 3.34

Full report (spreadsheet)



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