Research affirms lifetime benefits of girls' participation in Girl Scouting

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Hillary Christiansen hangs her Brownie sash on her Girl Scout office bulletin board.

While this may come as no surprise to many of the former Girl Scouts working in business, government, and the private sector, according to a recent Girl Scout Research Institute report, Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study, women who were Girl Scouts as children display significantly more positive life outcomes than non-Girl Scout alumnae.

New Orleans resident Hillary Christiansen, the alumnae relations manager at Girl Scouts Louisiana East, who was a Girl Scout growing up in Tennessee, agrees.

"The time I spent in Girl Scouting really shaped who I am today," said Christiansen. "It's inspiring to talk with other Girl Scout alumnae and hear how Girl Scouting positively impacted their lives."

Approximately one in every two adult women (49%) in the U.S. has at some point been a member of Girl Scouts; the average length of time a girl spends in Girl Scouting is four years. There are currently an estimated 59 million Girl Scout alumnae living in the U.S.

The study, which was not identified to participants as a Girl Scout project, surveyed a sample of 3,550 women aged 18 and older, roughly half of whom were Girl Scout alumnae and half drawn from the general population. The sample was chosen to be representative of the US population in terms of race/ethnicity, household income, education, marital status, and type of residence.

Compared to non-alumnae, Girl Scout alumnae display significantly more positive life outcomes on several indicators of success. These success indicators include:

• Perceptions of self. Of Girl Scout alumnae, 63% consider themselves competent and capable, compared to 55% of non-alumnae.

• Volunteerism and community work. Of Girl Scout alumnae who are mothers, 66% have been a mentor/volunteer in their child's youth organization, compared to 48% of non-alumnae mothers.

• Civic engagement. Of Girl Scout alumnae, 77% vote regularly, compared to 63% of non-alumnae.

• Education. Of Girl Scout alumnae, 38% have attained college degrees, compared to 28% of non-alumnae.

• Income/socioeconomic status. Girl Scout alumnae report a significantly higher household income ($51,700) than non-alumnae ($42,200).

In addition to collecting quantitative data, the researchers conducted a series of live interviews with Girl Scout alumnae. Overall, alumnae say Girl Scouting was positive and rewarding for them. Former Girl Scouts rate their Girl Scouting experiences very highly. The average rating among all alumnae on a 1–10 scale is 8.04. They fondly recall their experiences in Girl Scouting.

Fun, friendships, and crafts are the most frequently cited positive aspects of Girl Scouting. They also say they've received concrete benefits from Girl Scouts, such as being exposed to nature and having a safe place to try new things. Alumnae actively recognize the influence of Girl Scouting on their lives. Three quarters of alumnae report that the Girl Scout experience has had a positive impact on their lives in general. The positive effects of Girl Scouting seem particularly pronounced for women who were Girl Scouts longer, as well as for African American and Hispanic women.

Christiansen, who recently moved from a membership to fund development role at the council, is interested in starting Girl Scout alumnae groups across the council's 23-parish jurisdiction.

"The fun and community involvement doesn't have to stop once you've grown up," she said. "We believe that once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout."

According to Christiansen, local Girl Scouts will use their Cookie booth sales in March to identify Girl Scout alumnae in a fun competition.

For information about joining Girl Scout alumnae groups in southeast Louisiana please contact Christiansen at 800-644-7571, ext. 2222 or hchristiansen@gsle.org. To learn more about Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact study, or to obtain a copy, visit www.girlscouts.org/research.