Ohhh Noes!!! Teh Boy Scouts is shrinking!!!

Timothy Kincaid

February 13th, 2014

When the Boy Scouts of America revised its policies so as not to expel young scouts who are open about their orientation, those who object to honesty and homosexuality warned that there would be a mass exodus from the organization. In addition, a whole new group was created to provide a home for children who are not gay. Or Jews. Or Mormons.

Now the Boy Scouts has quantified the extent to which their policy change has impacted membership. And ohhh noes!! They’ve lost members!! (Time)

The Boy Scouts of America have lost six percent of their members since changing their policy on gay participants, the group said Wednesday.

Well, actually they may not have lost six percent entirely due to the policy change. Membership in the Boy Scouts has been in decline for years as the decrease in direct heterosexual parental involvement has led to more television and video game playing and less camping and jamboreeing.

“There are many factors that go into a family’s decision to join Scouting and it’s impossible to point to any single factor that influences our membership numbers,” Smith said. “This includes, but is not limited to, the limited amount of discretional time and parents wanting relevant programs for their kids.”

Membership has gradually shrunk over the last decade to 2.5 million youth and 1 million adults, including a four percent drop from 2011 to 2012.

But I think we can now say that the predictions of the demise of the Boy Scouts by antigay activists has proven to be consistent with their track record on other predictions.


February 13th, 2014

I would have to see a chart of annual membership change over a number of years, together with a discussion of factors influencing that change, in order to draw any conclusions. But just off-the-cuff, it seems to me that a 50% increase in the membership drop (4% to 6%) in successive years is quite significant. If it is a one-time phenomenon, then it’s not much of a problem. But if it’s a continuing trend, the organization is in trouble.

It would also be instructive to see figures for the alternative organization(s). (Strange as it is to use the word ‘alternative’ in that context!)


February 15th, 2014

The Wikipedia article on Boy Scouts of America Membership Controversies http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America_membership_controversies
has a table with figures since 1999.

There are a few gotchas such as the time it was discovered that some councils were inflating membership. Also Venturers was a new program in 1999 (the BSA split the old Exploring program into Venturers which kept the discrimination against non-heterosexuals and atheists and moved the rest (posts associated with fire departments/police departments and similar that could not legally discriminate [at least against atheists]). It also doesn’t include the 2013 figures yet (the reports have a 6% drop but I haven’t seen any real numbers for each of the three divisions of traditional scouting.


February 15th, 2014

Tristram has a good point, too, in as much as there have always been other groups. It would be interesting to compare numbers of youth involved in all such programs. A comparison comes to mind in the decline in cable subscribers. There are many reasons to leave cable, but if one ignores the similar decline in satellite users, one might draw false conclusions. A more holistic picture indicates TV viewers are dropping such services in preference for more user-centric services like Netflix. So, without the whole picture, we can’t say for sure what any particular decline means. It may very well be that programs like the BSA are in decline across the board.

BTW, I am surprised BTB didn’t pick this up, at least in a brief (perhaps an additional paragraph on this post would have been appropriate): http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-pascal-tessier-openly-gay-eagle-scout-20140211,0,2017487.story#axzz2tM2ndvJ2


February 15th, 2014

The feeling I’ve gotten is the BSA numbers dropped earlier and faster than some other groups though getting facts can be tricky.

The GSUSA had

2,291,425 girls in 2012 (Annual Report)
2,425,641 girls in 2009 (Annual Report)
so they are also dropping but their recent peak seems to have been 2.8 million in 2003.

From an older site ending 1999 whose figures might not be accurate

The peaks were circa 1970 (3,248,000 for girl scouts, 4,683,000 for boys). It does record 4,956,000 for boys in 1999; however, one must subtract Learning for Life (an in-school program started in 1990 and not part of traditional scouting) which leaves 3,743,000 for 1999. There was an intermediate minimum for both in the late 70s/early 80s then a rise again.

As a percentage of children the numbers are way down.

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