Scottish Rite Statistics
Recent Trends in Membership of
Scottish Rite & Freemasonry in the United States
Paul M. Bessel – January 23, 2002
It is fairly well known among those who study Masonic statistical trends that the total number of Freemasons in the United States has been declining in recent years, although comments are sometimes heard that we have “turned the corner.” This is not true, as demonstrated by the following two graphs which show that the decline in U.S. Masons in steady in each recent year.
It is to be expected that as the number of Freemasons goes down, the number of Scottish Rite Freemasons will also decline, and that is accurate.
And, as expected, the combined total of U.S. Scottish Rite Masons, adding those in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction to those in the Southern Jurisdiction, shows the same trend.
So far, all of this is unremarkable.
However, let us make a hypothesis. How does the decline in the number of U.S. Freemasons compare with the decline in the number of Scottish Rite members? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that these two declines would be roughly comparable, because as there are fewer Masons there will be fewer Scottish Rite members? So, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that the graphs of the relative declines in these two statistics would be about the same?
To put it another way, if we graph the number of U.S. Freemasons who were members of the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction or Southern Jurisdiction (since we are dealing with overall U.S. number of Masons), wouldn’t we expect the graph showing this proportion to remain steady? There is no reason to expect that as the number of Masons declines that the number of Scottish Rite members would decline any faster or slower.
But is this what the statistics show?
From 1950 through 1989, in every single year the change in the number of Scottish Rite Masons was always more favorable (greater increase or lesser decrease) than the change in the number of U.S. Freemasons. But since 1990, in every year the change is more negative for the Scottish Rite than it is for Freemasonry as a whole.
This is even more dramatic when shown as a five-year running average.
And, what would a graph of the percent of all U.S. Masons who are Scottish Rite members show?
The trend is even more startling, and alarming for the Scottish Rite, in recent years.
What can we deduce from these statistics?
1. The number of Freemasons in the U.S., and also the number of Scottish Rite members in the U.S., are declining in recent years.
2. The rates of decline in the number of U.S. Masons, compared with the number of U.S. Scottish Rite Masons, are different. Until the 1990s, Scottish Rite did better than Freemasonry as a whole. Since the start of the 1990s, the rate of decline of Scottish Rite members is greater than the rate of decline of Masons as a whole. Thus, the percent of Masons who are Scottish Rite members is declining.
What is causing this? Why are Masons either dropping out of the Scottish Rite, or not joining it, in equal percentage to the changes in the number of Masons as a whole? More importantly, what can the Scottish Rite do to change this trend, not necessarily to make the number of Scottish Rite members go up when the number of Masons is declining — as everyone would agree that is just about impossible — but to try to change recent trends so the number of Scottish Rite Masons does not decline at a greater rate than the decline in the number of Masons?