Archive for the Statistics Category

AA’s Own Stats Show Slow Demise

This piece was written for Stinkin’ Thinkin’ by a regular reader — an ex-AA member with 29 years in the program. Thank you!!

Get out your slide rules, nerds! – ftg

[UPDATED by soberbychoice to factor in more current numbers, correct some typos, respond to apologists, and general bulletproofing. UPDATE 2: Further updated on January 11, to reflect more current numbers showing AA’s grip on the treatment industry in the US is eroding.]

AA had 2.1-million members worldwide in its 1993 group count records.  1.26-million in the US and 94,000 in Canada; the remainder in the rest of the world.  (The Triennial Survey does not survey membership numbers, but does report the numbers in the group count database, which are the latest numbers for each individual group that GSO has on file for each group.) The AA group database in 2007 said the total membership shown by all the groups worldwide was 2-million. In other words, using the same database, membership had declined about 100,000 from the peak  fourteen years previous.  GSO for 2010 reports the membership number at exactly the 2.1-million number of 1993.

The membership count over the last couple of years has “grown” as GSO rolled out a new software system that allowed Area registrars to more easily update group membership numbers.  Some of the “this can’t possibly be true because AA clearly has an awesome retention and success rate of at least 25%” crowd have panicked and suggested that the method of counting at GSO changed in 1993, thus showing a membership decline that year.  That means the numbers prior to 1993 were inflated by 271,000, but it does nothing to change the conclusion that AA is running in place compared to the number of treatment center patients sent to AA and the court-assigned people.  The 1994 count was 1.8-million.  So, in sixteen years until 2010 AA gained 300,000 members back, roughly the 271,000 who were dropped in ’93, if one wants to buy the apologists story, and I don’t.  That’s roughly 19,000 new members per year out of all the million or more who got a Big Book and an AA group introduction.

It’s a little hard to conceive of how 271,000 people can disappear in one year and it takes 16 years to get them back when you’ve got the courts and the treatment centers doing pushups for you, but the apologist’s answer is that GSO decided some groups were really just “meetings” and some groups were counting hanger-ons that didn’t really belong, so “poof” on over a quarter million alcoholics.  The more likely explanation is that the HMO’s by the early 1990’s were drastically cutting back on 28-day treatment.  That is reinforced by a fairly dramatic decline in Grapevine subscritions over the same period.   No matter how you massage the numbers, apologize for the numbers, or sprinkle them with the ashes of the First 100, there ain’t a retention rate or success rate here worth all the chant’s in last year’s meetings. Continue reading AA’s Own Stats Show Slow Demise