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Brent, No I don't, 5% seems closer to what I have observed. But at the same time I don't claim to have made a comprehensive study. If I viewed it in terms of how many of the active scouts I see every week attain eagle, I could understand how the percentage might appear to be higher.


F-scouter's explanation sounds good as long as the numbers are collected over a longer time. If the observation time is shortened the sample becomes more and more like a snapshot of who's there at the moment. But if the total number of registrations over, say, five years is compared to the number of eagles during that same time, it should get closer to a more stable representation.

For some reason this stuff just seems easier if I'm thinking about age classes of fish or something. ;) This kind of question should be adaptable to life table analysis, I think.

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Why are we arguing about this? ... to quote another well-known question ... Why do people climb mountains? ...or a more recent question from the forum... Why do kids do what they do?


Isn't that what we do on the forum? Discuss Scouting things?


I'm discussing it because someone asked the question of what percentage of Scouts that join eventually earn Eagle, and I answered. And I furthered the discussion because it's a pet peeve of mine that the BSA seems to over-exaggerate the actual number.


Brent, I don't have to count all the boys that joined and dropped out during those four years in your example. If I did that, I'd also have to count all the boys that got Eagle during that time.


In your example, which I like, you have 4 marbles out of 100 registered marbles who make it and earn Eagle. In any given year you have 4 marbles earning Eagle, and 21 dropping out. That means of all the boys who leave Scouting, 4/25 have earned Eagle, or 16%. If you follow any set of 25 marbles through the system, you'll see that 4/25 eventually earn Eagle. And that's the real question - out of every 100 boys who join Scouting, how many earn Eagle?


You can check out this thread: http://www.scouter.com/forums/viewThread.asp?threadID=120663&p=1 where Hopewell indicates they have about 13-17% Eagles (1 out of every 6-8), and OldEagle indicates they have about 33%. Most of the rest of the troops on that thread indicate a reasonable number of Eagles every year, mostly between 1 and 3. Since they don't generally give their recruiting class sizes, it's not possible to get an exact percentage - but it sounds reasonable from that thread that an average troop would have two Eagles per year and 12 recruits - for about a 17% success rate. It's certainly not the case that the average troop on that thread has a recruiting class of 40 Webelos - which is what it would take to have a 5% success rate if there are about 2 Eagles per year.


Oak Tree



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interesting potential spin off.. In our district we have approximatly 720 registered Boy Scouts/. Out of those 37 have earned the Eagle rank in the past 11 months. I would suspect that we will find a wide variance of percentages throughout the many districts and councils in our country


To find the current percentage of all Eagle scouts, we need to find the sum total of all Eagles and divide by the total of all the boys who are currently registered + all those were registered. Of course, the adults who earned the award prior to 1952 might affect the numbers

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Well to add my highly unscientific observations. We are a troop with approximately 20 - 25 scouts. We typically have 1, occaisionally 2 Eagles/per year. That would put us in the typical 5% area. However, the 1 or 2 Eagles come from a typical class of 6 - 8 crossover Webelos we get each year from the Pack we are associated with. That would put us in the 15-20% range. However, those 6-8 Webelos that crossover and stay active, usually start out in a class of 20 or so Tiger or Wolf cubs, which puts us back to the 5% range.


I understand pet peeves. I have plenty of my own, this isn't one of them.


Don't get me started on MB Univerisities or the like though.



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I know what you mean about merit badge universities. But I'll leave you to tilt at that windmill while I continue to tilt at my own.


Your troop sounds pretty typical. If the national site statistics were to include Cub Scouts, then the five percent number would be more believable. But the direct quote from the current web site is "Not every boy who joins a Boy Scout troop earns the Eagle Scout rank; only about 5 percent of all Boy Scouts do so."


jr56 - while this may be more advanced mathematics than usually appears on the forum, this is nothing. Google the life table analysis that packsaddle suggests, and you'll find some serious math.


Oak Tree


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Oak Tree,

I will try again to show you the error in your thinking. The number 4 at the top of the marbles did not represent Eagles, it only represented the number of 17 year olds in the group. According to the statistics, the number of Eagles would be 5, representing the 50,000 each year.

Now, those 5 do not come from any one level of the marbles, or from a particular age group. There could be 1 14 year old, 1 15 y.o., 2 16 y.o's, and 1 17 y.o.. So those 5 came from 4 different groups of 25 that started when they were 11. That makes 5 out of 100 (4 starting groups of 25 each). Next year, 5 different Eagles will be pulled from the group, representing 4 groups of 25 that also started when they were 11 (100 total). The group of 5 Eagles is always different, and the 4 different years of starting groups is different every year. Yes, there is some overlap each year, but there are also more boys that only try Scouting for 1 year than this model will show.


Your 4/21 only includes those Scouts who dropped out, and doesn't account for those boys in Scouts, in the pipeline. As the marbles show, there are 7 years worth of boys in the pipeline which must be counted as well. But the 21 you use only includes those who dropped out, not the ones that are still in.

Remember, in a 12 month period, while those 21 are dropping/aging out, 25 new Scouts are entering. That is 46 different names that are on the rolls for a given year, plus the rest in the pipeline.

Last try. If you don't see it, then you don't see it. It is there, however.

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Brent, I think you're methodology is far, far more complicated than it needs to be. Consider the quote Oak posted from the BSA web site: "Not every boy who joins a Boy Scout troop earns the Eagle Scout rank; only about 5 percent of all Boy Scouts do so." Only two numbers are needed to compute the percentage - the number of boys who join, and the number that earn the Eagle rank.


Think simple. Of all the boys that join a troop, how many earn the Eagle rank during their Scouting career? That's the 5% percentage BSA is quoting. The other 95% either quit or aged out without earning Eagle.

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FScouter is right, this can be a pretty simple thing if you just consider the two numbers. I'll look at your example a bit more in a second, but could you take a second and consider ours? With 50,000 Eagles per year, and (our assumption of) 250,000 new Scouts per year, how can it be that only 5% of Scouts earn Eagle? It has to be that on average, out of each new class of 250,000, 20% will earn Eagle.


Let me try one more thing. FScouter is making a point. I'm making a point. Packsaddle agrees with my point. Beavah calls the national statistics bogus. Are you sure we're all wrong? Really? We're not secretly colluding on this. I don't want to back you into a corner here...could you just think for a second about the other point of view and see if maybe we've got something?


And let me take your example one more time, just to see how it applies if you're not just talking purely about the averages, but want to get into specific examples. You have 1 14 y.o., 1 15 y.o., 2 16 y.o., and 1 17 y.o. earning Eagle each year. I agree that these came from four different entering classes, for a total of 100 boys. Of those 100 boys, 25 now age out. The next year, out of those same boys, we again have 1 15 y.o., 2 16 y.o., and 1 17 y.o. earn Eagle. We're now up to 9 Eagles total out of those 100 boys. Another 25 age out. Again 2 16 y.o. earn Eagle the next year, as does 1 17 y.o. Another 25 age out, and the last year one more boy earns Eagle, for a total of 13. And that only counts the ones that earn Eagle after your year in question. There would also have been 7 boys out of those 100 who earned Eagle before the year in question, and that makes 20 out of 100.


You say there is "some overlap", but in fact 75 out of 100 of your boys are overlap from one year to the next. That's the crux of the problem.


Here's your example in more detail.


Let's say 25 boys join at age 11 in 2001.

2001 - no Eagles

2002 - no Eagles

2003 - none

2004 - 1

2005 - +1 = 2

2006 - +2 = 4

2007 - +1 = 5


Another 25 boys join at age 11 in 2002.

2002 - no Eagles from this group

2003 - none

2004 - none

2005 - 1

2006 - +1 = 2

2007 - +2 = 4

2008 - +1 = 5


Another 25 boys in 2003

2003 - no Eagles

2004 - none

2005 - none

2006 - 1

2007 - +1 = 2

2008 - +2 = 4

2009 - +1 = 5


Another 25 boys in 2004

2004 - no Eagles

2005 - none

2006 - none

2007 - 1

2008 - +1 = 2

2009 - +2 = 4

2010 - +1 = 5


Assume it keeps going that way.


By 2007 we hit a steady state. There will be 5 Eagles that year, and every year thereafter, and they will be one 14 y.o., one 15 y.o., two 16 y.o., and one 17 y.o. And out of each group of 25 that start, 5 will earn Eagle.


Oak Tree

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Oak Tree, I must note (and I'm going to try to do this in a way that doesn't seem to take sides) that the answer to this misunderstanding is not left to a vote or a popularity contest. Although a large number of persons can agree on a math problem, the correct answer is immune from their desire to be correct.

That said, I remain persuaded by your logic regarding the total number of exiting boys and the proportion of them that are eagles when they exit.

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As usual, Ed is responsible for all this arguing. ;)

Ed mentioned something about 5% eagle production and Oak Tree disputed it...and we were off to the races. If, as FScouter says, we don't have definitive numbers regarding exit numbers and status, then we are only left with what I think Brent was trying to do - and that was to assume an even age distribution of the numbers determined by dividing the total enrollment by 8. Then on the assumption that a relatively stable total population would logically lose 1/8th of the total and gain an equal amount, and then, with knowledge of the number of eagles each year, he drew his conclusions.

The problem, as FScouter implied (perhaps unintentionally), is that we don't seem to have good estimates for some of these. And on that basis, FScouter's conclusion is sound - we can't say, one way or the other. Wouldn't it be nice to HAVE those good solid reliable estimates?


Edited part: oops, typo(This message has been edited by packsaddle)

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Packsaddle - yes, I agree with you that math problems aren't really up for a vote. That's one of the things I always loved about math. I was just trying to suggest that I'm not all alone out on a limb, and maybe if you and others seem some merit to the argument, there might be some. But as I also said, I'll be happy to admit I'm wrong if someone can just show me the math.


I do think it would be great if BSA would just say how many new Scouts there were each year. They don't, as FScouter says, so it means we can't get an exact percentage. But we do know a few things.


First, in order for the 5% number to be accurate, we know that there would need to be one million new Scouts each year. We know that because we do know how many Scouts earn Eagle - around 50,000 or so each year (49,895 in 2005). Since there are just under one million total Scouts, it's clear that they aren't signing up one million new ones every year. And it seems obvious to me that BSA is getting the 5% number by dividing total Eagles by the total number of current Scouts, which isn't the right way to do it.


There are 667,000 current Webelos (as of 12/31/05). If we assume that half of these are Webelos IIs, and that they all cross over, there would be 334,000 or so new Scouts each year. That estimate may not be exact, but it's got to be in the ballpark.


50,000 / 334,000 is 15%.


So FScouter, while you're right that I don't know exactly what the correct number is, I do *know* that it's not 5%. Show me some way that the 5% could possibly be true and I'll listen.


Oak Tree


P.S. If it was actually only 1/8th of the Scouts that were new each year, the percentage would be even higher. About 50,000/125,000, or 40%.

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