Thursday, April 4, 2013

Update from YouTube Data on Missionary Applications Including March 2013

2013 March YouTube Callings

This post updates my initial findings on missionary calls using to track changes in the size and composition of the missionary force caused by President Monson’s October 2012 announcement that the Church was changing the age requirements for missionary service. Church announcements on the response to the age change provide a check on my data, which, with a couple of exceptions, performs well. On October 22, 2012, the Church announced that missionary applications had increased 471% and that half the calls were to women. On January 7, 2013, the Church reported that missionary applications were running at about twice the normal rate of 700 per week and that approximately half the applications were from men and the other half from women. More recently, on March 27, the Church announced that applications were still running at about twice the previous rate since January 1, and that 57% of the calls were to men, 35% to women, and 7% to couples. My data does not include couples. They do not post videos of calls as readily as young men and women.

The most noticeable difference between the church reports and my data is that mine does not show a slowdown in applications. Perhaps my data does not pick up the initial explosion of applications because the calls would have been sent during the busy holiday season. Some of the videos filmed in late October through December were posted to YouTube in the following months, inflating numbers in January through March. Many a Christmas tree was spotted in the background as calls were read in the latter months. When available, I used dates read from letters rather than the date the video was posted to YouTube. A second difference between my data and Church announcements is a slight overrepresentation of videos from women.

All and all, the YouTube data seems to be an adequate sample of the actual applications and provides a deeper glimpse into changes in missionary numbers than the brief Church announcements. It catches the trend of applications from women exceeding those from men until about January, and then the applications from men outpacing those from women. The two graphs presented below show year-to-year applications from women and men. I expected that applications in the past would show a seasonal pattern with more applications being submitted in February and March, timing entrance into Mission Training Centers for the summer. The two graphs show that last year, no such trend existed. I suspect that a trend for men will emerge in the future because of the requirement that missionaries must complete high school prior to serving. I also suspect that no such trend will develop for women. My guess is that for the most part, the application date corresponds to the applicant feeling the Spirit testify that they should serve.

2013 March YouTube Callings to Sisters

2013 March YouTube Callings Elders

The graph, "Three Month Moving Average of the Location of Mission Assignments," shows a three month moving average of the percentage of calls read on YouTube to seven geographic regions. They are the regions reported by the Church on the “Facts and Statistics” page of the “Newsroom” with one exception. I divided the North America region into two groups: the United States and the rest of North American (North American not US). The influx of applications does not appear to have precipitated a major change in the percentage of missionaries called to each region. At some point, I will test whether the small changes are statistically different.

2013 March YouTube Callings by Region

It would be natural to suspect that the increase in applications would cause a queuing problem with the period between receiving a call and reporting to Mission Training Centers lengthening. I initially thought that I might have seen such a trend developing but if it is, it is small. After refining my data, I tracked the preparation period for six months: in October, the preparation period was 106 days, in November, 97, in December, 98, in January, 106, in February 99 and in March, 112 days. If a queuing problem develops, it should happen during the next two months.

There has been a spectacular response to President Monson’s announcement. Women now play a more prominent part in missionary work. Men have too responded to the Prophet’s voice but a little more time is needed to learn if men are serving earlier or if they are serving both earlier and in greater numbers. We will soon learn how the increase in missionary numbers affects convert baptisms, convert retention, and activation. The impact of the announcement is not limited to missionary work. The announcement is likely to change marriage patterns and educational attainment of women.

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