Nerd alert! National study about nerd culture and fandoms

Nerd alert! National study about nerd culture and fandoms

The terms “geek”, “nerd”, or “dork” used to be accompanied with an L to the forehead, but as it turns out, these so-called nerds now run the world. Nerd culture has become largely mainstream in a number of ways and we’re here to unmask just how. Beyond this, we’re shining a spotlight on what kind of nerds live where, what they do for work, and the fandom they’re following. Now that’s something to nerd out about.

Key Findings:

Most Americans identified as “internet geeks” above all other geeky interests 

Austin, Texas was voted the nerdiest city and Rhode Island the nerdiest state

Cosplay is the most participated nerd activity

The nerdiest job sector was Law and Legal with 85% identifying as nerds

Nerds of the Nation 

Let’s get things straight: not all geeks are the same. We’ve got our bookworms, our techies, our trekkies, and so forth. It’s important to distinguish the dorks from their quirks. We decided to look at this from a state-by-state point of view first to determine the dorky divisions across the country. 

Americans responded that out of all their interests, the majority considered themselves to be internet geeks with a 20% response rate. The next geek type to take the nation were the tech geeks for #2, followed by the book geeks in third place. 

But where were the geekiest of all geeks? We asked respondents to tell us if they were too cool for school or sitting comfortably with the band kids in the cafeteria. When asked if they identified as geeks, nerds, dorks, or any of the other terminology for the terms, we were able to separate the jocks from the nerds.

The “you can’t sit with us” crowd was largely found in Maine, where 75% of the population said they weren’t nerds at all. The second “coolest” resulted in a tie between D.C. and Deleware. I guess the East Coast really thinks they’re the elite coast when it comes to coolness.

But we’re here to exalt the eccentric! We’re out to seek the gangster’s nerds’ paradise. The geekiest state in the country was…

Rhode Island! All Rhode Island respondents considered themselves to be some degree of geeky. The second geekiest state goes to Kentucky where an impressive 94% identified as geeks, nerds, or dorks. To round out the top three was Iowa where 90% considered themselves to be nerds. Who runs the world? Nerds.

Top 10 Nerdiest Cities

If we want to get a bit more granular about it (and we do because we’re geeks), some cities were considered more nerdy than others. The top 10 nerdiest cities (in order) were:

Austin, Texas

Columbus, Ohio

Arlington, Virginia

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Burlington, Vermont

Richmond, Virginia

Salem, Massachusetts 

Newark, New York

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Knoxville, Tennessee 

Whether it be the absurd music scene of Austin, the politics nerds of Arlington, or all the fanatics in between, these were the nerdiest cities across the country. Virginia reigns with 2 nerdy cities making the list with the others scattered throughout the 50 states.

The industries with the highest % of nerds

Nerds are hidden in plain sight. They’re on your street corners, they’re in your fitness classes, they’re at your workplace. But when nerds head to work, what fields are they looking at? The obvious answer would be tech, but you’d be wrong to assume! 

The nerdiest profession was law with 85% of respondents indicating that they identified as nerds, geeks, or dorks. The second nerdiest industry was marketing and media with 80% of workers considering themselves nerdy. Coming into third place for the nerdiest job field was public services and administration at a 78% nerd rate. 

And in case you were wondering, because you probably are, 30% of those working in IT actually didn’t consider themselves nerdy. Who says you can’t be a computer programmer and still be cool?

Nerd or nah? Ranking different hobbies by nerdom 

What makes a nerd a nerd? Is it the wire-rimmed glasses? The affinity for Star Wars? The ability to recite the entire Die Hard movie line by line? We asked respondents what they considered to be nerdy and what didn’t make the cut. 

If you’re trying to avoid the reputation of a nerd, we’d recommend you put your Naruto costume back in the closet. Cosplay was considered the number one nerdiest activity with almost 70% of respondents classifying it as a nerdy hobby. 

Smashing supervillains and saving damsels in distress apparently doesn’t translate to heroism off the comic book pages. Comic books were rated the second nerdiest activity at 61%. Anime also gets a geeky reputation, coming into third place at 58%.

Then we’ve got fandoms. Whether you’re checking your sitting under the sorting hat or waving a lightsaber, there’s a fan base for all of us. Which ones are we nerding out about? 

The number one national fandom was Harry Potter. The Harry Potter franchise is estimated at about $25 billion USD, giving monetary proof to its popularity. Another fictitious favorite is the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming into second place. Interestingly enough, just as anime was voted the third geekiest activity, it was also the third favorite fandom across the nation. 

Live long and prosper: nerdy jobs that earn the big bucks

Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates- all nerds, all fabulously wealthy. Being a nerd doesn’t have to be a bad thing, in fact, it can be quite lucrative when putting those geeky skills to the test. We crunched the numbers on the top earnings across a number of industries, sectors, and positions affiliated with identified “nerdy qualifications” to see which dorks are raking in the dough.

Data Scientist $140,000

Enterprise Architect $138,000

Software Architect $133,000

Site Reliability Engineer $132,000

Mobile Developer $123,000

Cloud Engineer $121,000

Data Warehouse Architect $119,000

Development Operations Engineer $117,000

Network Security Engineer $108,000

Solutions Engineer $105,000

As we can see, IT and data sciences are where the money is really at. All nerds are welcome!

I think we can all agree that the stigma got it wrong. Nerds are actually pretty cool. Whether they’re showing us the depths of the or spitting stats about sports players, nerds come in all shapes and sizes and we’re happy to share the nerdy news. 


We surveyed over 2,000 Americans in August 2023 about nerd culture, following external research. The age range was between 18-70 with all participants currently residing in the United States. Of the respondents, 51% were male, 47.1% were female and 1.9% were transgender or non-binary.

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Author: Alan Flores