A look at big cities that everyone forgets, and smaller cities everyone remembers.
“It is better to be hated than ignored.”
-Gandhi (incorrectly paraphrased)
A new study from the website FiveThirtyEight (slogan: Thank God ESPN Stuck With Us Through an Election Year) endeavored to figure out America’s most forgettable and memorable cities, and they came up with a pretty clever method. They looked at the results of a Sporcle quiz where people tried to name as many of the 100 most populous U.S. cities as they could in 12 minutes. Then they compared those results to each city’s population.
In theory, the bigger a city, the more people should remember it. For the list below, I took their results found the biggest differences between population rank and Sporcle quiz memorability rank. These are 11 cities that way more people should’ve thought of and, thus, are the most forgettable U.S. cities.
Spoiler: Lots of California.
11 | Charlotte, North Carolina
(17th largest population, 42nd most memorable)
10 | Virginia Beach, Virginia
(39th largest population, 65th most memorable)
9 | Aurora, Colorado
(56th largest population, 83rd most memorable) Admittedly, I would be more likely to remember Aurora, Illinois than Aurora, Colorado. The one in Illinois does have Noah’s Arcade, after all.
8 | Stockton, California
(65th largest population, 93rd most memorable)
7 | El Paso, Texas
(19th largest population, 48th most memorable)
6 | Fort Worth, Texas
(16th largest population, 45th most memorable) Fort Worth gets screwed by being lumped in with Dallas in pretty much every other study in history. It’s not our fault. The industrial trivia complex has conditioned us to think only of Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
5 | San Jose, California
(10th largest population, 40th most memorable)
4 | Long Beach, California
(36th largest population, 69th most memorable)
3 | Fresno, California
(34th largest population, 67th most memorable)
2 | Santa Ana, California
(57th largest population, 91st most memorable) I live like 30 minutes from Santa Ana and I probably wouldn’t have thought to put it down.
1 | Mesa, Arizona
(38th largest population, 75th most memorable)
And now, flipping it around to the 11 most memorable cities…
11 | St. Paul, Minnesota
(67th largest population, 39th most memorable) Well this kind of blows my previously stated “it always gets lumped in with another, larger city” theory out of the water. Man, if only this site only did top 10s I could’ve kept my small sample sized theory alive.
10 | Buffalo, New York
(70th largest population, 38th most memorable)
9 | New Orleans, Louisiana
(52nd largest population, 17th most memorable)
8 | Baton Rouge, Louisiana
(85th largest population, 50th most memorable)
7 | St. Louis, Missouri
(58th largest population, 22nd most memorable)
6 | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(59th largest population, 21st most memorable)
5 | Reno, Nevada
(89th largest population, 51st most memorable) I mean, it is the biggest little city in the world. Forgetting it would be a tiny-huge mistake.
4 | Miami, Florida
(44th largest population, 5th most memorable)
3 | Birmingham, Alabama
(97th largest population, 52nd most memorable) Apparently people are better at state capitals than I realized.
2 | Orlando, Florida
(79th largest population, 32nd most memorable)
1 | Boise, Idaho
(103rd largest population, 46th most memorable)