Saturday, April 20, 2013

Interesting Statistics

Looking at the numbers reported in conference over the past 40 years shows some interesting results.  I went and collected them myself, but afterwords I realized that all of the same information is already available at in a convenient spreadsheet format.

I have a bunch of different graphics that I will discuss separately.  A lot of these will break the page formatting, deal with it.

Birth Rates

The birth rate per 1000 is really interesting.  Births are estimated based on the number of babies blessed (reported almost every year).  It is a good indicator of the birth-rate among active members.  It is interesting to note the decline in birth rate since the seventies.  It is also interesting to note that the birth rate was unrealistic for Mormons even in the seventies.  The US average was 14 per 1000 in 2012, this is roughly 2 children per woman.  Mormons are notorious for having many children per family, so the 2 child per woman number is going to be extremely low (more on this later).
 Here, you can see an interesting trend of number of births has remained roughly the same since the seventies, even though the deaths are all over the place.  In fact, deaths (which has to be estimated based on last year's membership, plus this year's births, plus this year's converts, minus this year's membership (this should give the number of members lost, which would include deaths, resignations, and excommunications, but it is obvious from the numbers that it cannot include all three of these things) are really interesting, given that there are several years with a negative death rate.  How this happens, I don't know, they must have changed the way they count people during those years, who knows.  Anyway, deaths have also remained consistent over the last 40 years.

The consistency would show that there isn't really a net increase in active families over the years, which means that a lot of people are leaving the church, and that the reported numbers simply include a lot of people that don't consider themselves Mormon nor do they want their children to be Mormon.

This graphic shows the estimated active membership based on what the birthrate "should" be.  If the birthrate was the US average for 2012 (14 per 1000), then the membership would be around 9 million today, if, however, the birthrate were closer to a more realistic 28 per 1000 (4 kids per woman, and having grown up in a family of 4 kids that was considered small, I would bet this number could be higher), the number of members is just under 5 million.  Interesting to see that the estimated active membership is barely reaching the same levels that were seen in 1982.

The estimated activity rate is obtained by considering what the average active members per unit (ward/branch) would be.  Most wards split at 300 active members to keep membership between 100 to 200, this does not count all of the small wards and branches.  Taking two estimates, either an average of 150 or 200 active members per unit gives this graph.  Showing that activity rates are likely around 30% or 40%.  For the more likely number (in my estimation) of 150 per unit, the estimated membership is just under 5 million (which is close to other estimates that I have computed, and the current popular estimates that I have seen outside the church).  This graph also shows a steadily decreasing activity rate in the church.

Missionary Related Statistics
The number of converts per mission is remaining steady, but there is a small downward trend.  Either there are fewer baptisms overall or it is taking more missions to achieve a similar level of baptisms.

The number of converts per missionary shows a similar downward trend.  Each missionary is achieving less, which means that it takes a greater amount of effort to find and baptize each person now (as compared to the eighties or seventies).  This will likely get a lot worse once the number of missionaries skyrockets (due to the missionary age change).

This shows that the percentage of members that are missionaries is going down.  Another indicator of the number of members being grossly inflated.

The number of full-time missionaries has flat-lined after the turn of the century.  This will change now that the age has been reduced.  Not much more to say here.

Here is the converts per missionary compared to the converts per unit.  Converts per unit is quite a bit lower now, and has been in steady decline.  One hypothesis here is that the church is trying to continue making new units to give a show of growth, when in actuality they are merely spreading their membership more thinly.

Stakes, Wards, and Branches
Nothing really interesting to say here, but I include it for completeness, and it is interesting to see that the church made stakes much smaller for a while, and then ever since they have been generally getting bigger (in absolute member count, maybe not in actual active member count, who knows).

You can see the trend upwards, more members per unit.  This is a strong indicator for increased inactivity rates.  Since each ward requires a certain number of active priesthood holders, and they try and keep wards relatively small, this indicates there aren't enough active priesthood to grow the number of units commensurate with the growth of the membership numbers, thus there are more names associated with each ward, even if the number of active members per unit is remaining the same (it might even be going down if the pattern in my area of salt lake is any indicator of the rest of the world).

I like this graphic shows the increase in units (first derivative) compared with the increase in the increase in units (second derivative), this can be seen like speed (change in position) versus acceleration (change in speed).  Neither of these have a consistent trend, even though the growth of reported numbers has been a consistent increase in roughly 200,000 to 300,000 per year for a long time running.  In fact, the increase in units has slowed considerably, and never really recovered from the dip in 1999.