Eagle Scouts Have Positive, Lasting Influence On American Society, Study Suggests

A study from Baylor University, (April 10, 2012) shows that there is a correlation between attaining Eagle rank (or, sometimes, simply having been a boy scout) and several "prosocial" attributes like volunteerism, religious activity, connections to neighbors and community, etc. From the study: "the central question of this study is to determine if participation in Scouting and ultimately becoming an Eagle Scout is associated with prosocial behavior and positive youth development that carries over into young adulthood and beyond." (p.2)

Here are some sample results:

Have donated money to a religious institution within the last month: Eagle Scouts are 53 percent more likely than non-Scouts but are not significantly different from other Scouts in donating money to a religious institution.

Say respecting religious leaders outside of your religion is at least somewhat important: Eagle Scouts are 133 percent more likely than other Scouts and 109 percent more likely than non-Scouts.

Have extremely close relationships with friends: Eagle Scouts are 60 percent more likely compared to Scouts. Further, Eagle Scouts are also 37 percent more likely to be extremely close with friends, compared to those men who never participated in Boy Scouts.

Scouting as a Filter

From what I can tell, the study does not control for self-selection bias for people who sign up for scouting in the first place. Scouting is about doing community work, camping with friends in the outdoors, and has a strong religious component. I think the "respecting religious leaders" question shows this best. Apparently, men who have been scouts respond "less important" on this question than the average non-scout. Yet at Eagle rank, the tables are turned the other way, Eagles respond "more important" than both other scouts and the average man. It appears that scouts self-select into the program, but those who achieve the highest rank are perhaps different than the "usual scout". This leads me to my second point:

Eagle as a Filter

From what I can tell, the study doesn't explain the differences between "Eagle" rank and men who had less scouting, or attempt to relate the various positive attributes to, say, "years as a scouting participant". A male who has been in the program many years, and attained a high rank (Star, Life) but not Eagle will have experienced nearly as much of the program as an Eagle scout. I think it's likely that there is a difference between "high achieving" Eagles and other scouts in who they are, and what they already bring to the program. Maybe Eagles have supportive parents, a dad who also volunteered as a scout leader, or come from families that are better off economically. Again, we might be seeing evidence of selection bias -- Eagles bring attitudes and resources that set them apart from other scouts (and other people) that allow them to become Eagles in the first place.

I saw the study first in "Science Daily"