Section Membership Trends
I would like to present some data to provide information about the PEWS and ASA’s membership over time. I hope these data will inform the discussion of the future of the section that has been started in the PEWS News and the proposed blog.
The figure below shows the PEWS membership as percentage of the ASA membership since 1978. The figure also compares the PEWS section with the Sociology of Development and the Global and Transnational Sociology section membership trends.
Figure 1: PEWS, Sociology of Development, and Global and Transnational Sociology section membership as percentage of ASA membership
The PEWS membership shows a slow increase and became rather steady from the late 1980s with a slight increase after 2010 and a decrease in 2017. The recent founding of the Sociology of Development section and Global and Transnational Sociology sections show their popularity and rapid growth.
The PEWS membership dropped in 2017, but there have been earlier drops of nearly the same size in 2009, 2001, and 1994. The growth and decline phases of the PEWS membership have followed similar ups and downs in ASA membership (see Figure 2) and are probably not much due to factors internal to the PEWS section.
Figure 2: Percentage of PEWS and total ASA membership change since 1978
It is possible that some of people who joined the Development and Global sections have dropped out of the PEWS section. Another cause of the drop in the PEWS membership count in 2017 could be the change of the ASA’s method of allowing gift memberships for students. The period for the sections to be able to do gift memberships was shortened in 2017.
The overall trajectory of PEWS membership has been fairly stable, with downswings tracking similar downswings in overall ASA membership. The membership counts for the last forty years suggest that the decline of membership in 2017 does not look like a devastating crisis for the PEWS section. I hope these data will help promote a productive discussion, and I agree that we should make a strong effort to make the section more appealing to younger social scientists.
Note: I would like to express my appreciation to Mark Fernando at the ASA home office for providing the data on section and ASA membership counts since the inception of the PEWS section. I am also thankful to Profs. Matthew Mahutga and Chris Chase-Dunn for their suggestions on an earlier draft. An Excel file with the membership counts and a longer discussion of the results are available at: