176-3 Demography of the Geological Society of America

Sunday, 5 October 2008: 2:10 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 310CF
Dallas D. Rhodes, Department of Geology and Geography, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA
The population structure of the Geological Society of America (GSA) bears the imprint of the major events that have shaped the geosciences in the United States during the last 85 years (the lifetimes of its membership). Some of the events affected the population of the entire nation, while the demographic impacts of other events were restricted to the sciences in general or the geosciences in particular. The most obvious difference between the structure of the general populace and that of the geosciences is the imbalance of the genders, with women comprising only 27% of GSA's total membership. The gender difference in the 1965 and later birth-year cohorts has decreased as women have earned a larger percentage of the undergraduate degrees awarded in the geosciences. Boom-and-bust cycles in the petroleum industry have been profoundly important in shaping the Society's current membership and vestiges of events that occurred 50 years ago are still recognizable in GSA's population structure. The petroleum price bust on the early 1980's caused major changes in geosciences. The number of undergraduate degrees awarded in geology declined by more than 80% between 1982 and 1989 with the result that the 1965-1969 birth-year cohort is significantly smaller than the cohorts both immediately younger and older. Younger cohorts have grown in size, primarily due to the larger number of women entering the profession. The largest cohorts in the Society are the men and women educated during the post World War II scientific expansion fueled by Federal science and education programs. These Baby Boom generation members are just reaching retirement age. As they leave the discipline, the number of geoscientists and GSA's membership will decline unless the number of new degrees produced in the United States increases or more foreign trained scientists are allowed to immigrate.