Demographic Change in the American Geophysical Union's United States Membership, 2006-2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Dallas D Rhodes, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, United States
AGU’s demographic characteristics changed during the period 2006-2014 in response to the aging of the Baby Boom generation and an increase in the number of women geoscientists. This analysis deals only with the portion of AGU’s membership with mailing addresses within the US, a group that comprised 65% of the worldwide total in 2006 and 61% of the total membership in 2014. Using the US membership data that include both the members’ birthdate and gender, a comparison of the population structures in 2006 and 2014 reveals characteristics of the changing US workforce.

Since 2006, the percent of the US membership represented by the Baby Boom has decreased 5.2%, from 37.2% to 32.0%. That trend will continue for the next 20 years and the rate will accelerate before slowing again. At the same time the Boomers are decreasing in number, the percentage of the membership represented by the more recent age-cohorts (born 1965-1989) has grown. For example, in 2006, the 1985-1989 cohort was barely represented (0.14%). By February 2014, the cohort had become 8.25% of the U.S. membership. The four cohorts covering birth years 1965 through 1984, each increased slightly in size. In addition, each had a larger number of women, reflecting AGU’s increased female membership from 22.5% to 25.3%. The 1985-1989 cohort is somewhat smaller than the previous four cohorts. If the smaller size of this represents a reversal of the growth trend over the last 25 years, the implications for the size of the US workforce are important.

Perhaps the most significant change in the demographic structure of AGU’s US membership is that the general shape of the age-gender diagram, while still asymmetrical because of the larger number of men, is becoming more straight sided due to the similar size of recent cohorts. This shape is characteristic of stable populations when dealing with self-reproducing groups. The implications for the future of a scientific society are less clear, but the cause reflects a period of relative stability without radical changes (either growth or shrinkage). As the members who were born during the Baby Boom and those who reached the workforce during the petroleum bust of the 1980’s continue to leave AGU, the society’s US membership (and to some degree the size of the workforce) seems to have stabilized at something near current levels.