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Reflections on Geoscience Age Distributions 2001–2018


David M. Abbott, CPG-04570 and R. Douglas Bartlett, CPG-08433


Histograms provided by: David M. Abbott, Jr., CPG-04570, AIPG Ethics Columnist


Histograms of the age distribution of geoscientists show some consistent trends over time. I’ve examined data from AAPG (2001) and AIPG (2011 and 2018). The resulting histo- grams are presented in Figure 1. The AAPG data come from the American Geoscience Institute (AGI). The AIPG data comes from annual membership data collected after March 1st, when those who haven’t paid their dues are dropped from member- ship. The age histograms are based on birth year, something AIPG has for most but not all members.


The 2001 AAPG date is relevant because, at the time, the majority of geoscientists were employed in the petroleum busi- ness, although this was changing.


The baby boomer, “boomer,” cohort represent the promi- nent group in each histogram with lows on either side. These lows reflect the effects of periods of significant employment contractions and layoffs within the geosciences. As is evident from these graphs, the boomer high has migrated from left to right over time indicating the passing of this group to older age groups. To the right of the “boomer” high, there is a peak of those 25 years older (age 71-75). This is most pronounced in the 2001 AAPG data. However, a remnant of this cohort remains in the 2011 AIPG data, and to a lesser degree in the 2018 AIPG data in the “More” column.


To the left of the “boomer” highs is a distinct low in the 2001 AAPG data that begins to develop as another distribution “high” in the 2011 AIPG data and particularly in the 2018 AIPG data. Some of this younger high is composed of students who are generally less than 26. But the “25” column in the 2011 AIPG data is in the “30” column in the 2018 AIPG data—some of the size difference between the 2011 and 2018 AIPG data is a result of including student members, not all of whom continue their membership following graduation. As has been noted by various sources, including the AGI’s “Geoscience Currents” publications, the retirement and death of other geoscientists is providing significant opportunities for younger geoscientists to pursue life-long careers in the geosciences..


Passing the Baton - Bartlett


David Abbott’s analysis of age distribution for geoscien- tists reveals a truth that cannot be denied—our generation is on the way out. The baton is getting passed to the “next” generation. Of course, this applies to many fields of endeavor because the baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1964, are a large demographic group. A wave has been passing through society. Each phase of our lives dominated society—as chil- dren (1950s), as teenagers (1960s), as young professionals (1970s–1980s), as parents (1980s–1990s), as senior profes- sionals (1990’s–2000’s), and beginning in the last few years, increasingly as retirees (Abbott is mostly retired, and I am nearing retirement). I can only imagine that post-baby boom generations are all too eager to see the backsides of us baby


Figure 1. Geoscience age distribution histograms 10 TPG • Jul.Aug.Sep 2018 www.aipg.org


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