One hundred years after Arthur Eldred of New York earned this nation's first Eagle Scout Award, new, independent research demonstrates the significant, positive impact Eagle Scouts have on society every day. Since it was first awarded in 1912, more than 2 million young men have achieved the Boy Scouts of America's highest rank. With the help of the Gallup Organization, Baylor University researchers contacted 81,409 potential respondents to study the differences between Eagle Scouts, former Scouts who didn't make Eagle, and men who were never in Scouting. The study, Merit Beyond the Badge, found that Eagle Scouts are more likely than men who have never been in Scouting to:
- Have higher levels of planning and preparation skills, be goal-oriented, and network with others
- Be in a leadership position at their place of employment or local community
- Report having closer relationships with family and friends
- Volunteer for religious and nonreligious organizations
- Donate money to charitable groups
- Work with others to improve their neighborhoods
"Eagle Scouts have made their marks throughout history—from walking on the moon and working behind the desk in the Oval Office to running the bases in the major leagues. And while we're proud to claim some truly great men in American history among our ranks, we're even more proud that everyday Eagle Scouts become wonderful husbands, fathers, and citizens," said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America. "This research validates for the world something we've known about Eagle Scouts for years. They lead. They vote. They donate. They volunteer. They work hard and achieve their goals. In short, Eagle Scouts are exceptional men."
Baylor University's Program for Prosocial Behavior received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to measure the lifelong effects of being in the Scouting program, and more specifically, of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.
"Our study measured if achieving the rank of Eagle provides an advantage and benefits throughout a Scout's life," said Dr. Byron Johnson, lead researcher, Baylor University. "We found that the effort and commitment required to earn this rank produces positive attributes that benefit not only these men in their personal and professional lives, but also benefits their communities and the country through the service and leadership they provide."
The Eagle Scout badge has become widely recognized as a mark of distinction both within and outside of Scouting. Once earned, it is worn for life. About 4 percent of Boy Scouts earn the Eagle Scout rank. To do so, Scouts must demonstrate their understanding of leadership, service, character, personal fitness, and outdoor skills at multiple levels.
In addition to the 21 life skills merit badges required to earn the Eagle Scout rank, each Scout must complete an extensive self-directed service project. The Scout must plan, organize, lead, and manage the entire service effort prior to his 18th birthday. The average number of hours spent on Eagle Scout projects is 130. In 2011, more than 51,000 young men earned the Eagle Scout Award, which means Eagle Scout service projects alone represented almost 6.7 million hours of community service.
Some of the more notable Eagle Scouts are President Gerald Ford; Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton; explorer Steve Fossett; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates, Sr.; MLB all-star Shane Victorino; and actor Jon Heder, who starred in the independent film Napoleon Dynamite.
To learn more about the study, as well as this year's 100th anniversary of the Eagle Scout Award, visit www.nesa.org.