Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts suffer huge declines in membership

David Crary Ap National Writer
Wednesday, June 30, 2021

America’s most iconic youth organizations – the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA – have been jolted by unprecedented one-year drops in membership, due partly to the pandemic, and partly to social trends that have been shrinking their ranks for decades.

While both organizations insist they’ll survive, the dramatic declines raise questions about how effectively they’ll be able to carry out their time-honored missions -- teaching skills and teamwork, providing outdoor adventure, encouraging community service.

Membership for the BSA’s flagship Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA programs dropped from 1.97 million in 2019 to 1.12 million in 2020, a 43% plunge, according to figures provided to The Associated Press. Court records show membership has fallen further since then, to about 762,000.

The Girl Scouts say their youth membership fell by nearly 30%, from about 1.4 million in 2019- 2020 to just over 1 million this year.

Both groups, like several other U.S. youth organizations, have experienced declining membership for many years. The Girl Scouts reported youth membership of about 2.8 million in 2003. The BSA had more than 4 million boys participating in the 1970s.

Reasons for the drop include competition from sports leagues, a perception by some families that they are old-fashioned, and busy family schedules. The pandemic brought a particular challenge.

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