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Membership Approves Changes to the ASA Dues Structure

As part of the 2011 ASA election, members voted to approve the revised dues structure proposed unanimously by the ASA Council at its February 2011 meeting. Apart from inflation-adjusted increases (i.e., in constant dollars), ASA dues have been unchanged since 1997 across all membership dues categories. This is especially problematic at the top because the highest income category ($70,000+) was selected by 17 percent in the late 1990s, but is now selected by 36 percent of all regular members. These categories cannot be adjusted and expanded without approval of the membership, which Council now has.

Timeframe

The new dues structure will go into effect in two years—the 2013 membership year; however, the new unemployed category will go into effect next year (2012).

Background

After several years of discussion with the ASA Committee on the Executive Office and Budget (EOB), Council decided to propose a revision to the membership dues structure in order to:

  • restore lost progressivity in the income categories for regular members (especially at the top);
  • restore a portion of the Association’s income decline from the continuing economic downturn;
  • “recouple” dues and journals under one membership amount;
  • provide a new membership category for unemployed sociologists;
  • expand eligibility for reduced dues by retired members; and
  • protect the current low student membership dues.

Restoring Progressivity

The March 2011 Footnotes contained an article discussing the question of restoring progressivity, which was a major theme of conversation by Council over the last three years. There was consensus that dues are an essential source of Association revenue, and that higher dues levels for more affluent members should be used to reduce dues for students, unemployed sociologists, and those with lower incomes. In recent years, most increases in dues revenue—other than from membership growth—came from people who previously qualified for lower-income membership categories, but who reached the highest dues level when their incomes rose above $70,000. People who were already in the above $70,000 category, whose salaries increased, did not experience a corresponding dues hike. By establishing additional income categories above $70,000, the new dues structure will become more progressive.

Restoring Lost Revenue

ASA revenues also became an issue for Council when most categories of ASA revenues began to decline with the economic downturn, including journal revenues, Job Bank listings, Annual Meeting revenues, interest income, and mailing list rentals, among others. Although balanced budgets were restored in 2010 and are projected for 2011, balance has been achieved exclusively by cutting expenses across the board. The consensus in Council is that the current budget is very tight and there is uncertainty about future revenues. Rather than consider programmatic cuts that would reduce ASA activities and services, Council preferred to increase revenues from members at higher income levels through the new, more progressive dues structure. (Read more about ASA‘s revenues and expenditures, ASA’s revenue needs, and ASA’s membership dues in comparison to similar organizations in the April 2011 Footnotes.)

Recoupling Dues and Journals

In 2002 ASA members passed a referendum to reduce the number of required journals for full membership from two to one and to separate the payment of dues and journals. Under this payment structure, the dues amount and the journal purchase, which are both currently required for membership, were made separate payments because journal prices varied and the Association needed to be able to determine costs and revenues for individual journals. With the new dues structure, regular members will pay one membership amount that includes dues by income category and any journal of their choosing. Similarly, students will pay the same amount for membership as they do now ($50), with the choice of any journal.

The New Unemployed Membership Category

Almost 10 percent of ASA’s regular members select the lowest regular membership income category, under $20,000 (now $71 including a required journal subscription). Recognizing that some of these members and other non-member sociologists may be currently unemployed, the new unemployed category will have a reduced rate beginning in 2012 ($50 including dues and a journal subscription).

Expanding the Emeritus Category to Include Other Retired Sociologists

Currently, emeritus members must have been full members of the ASA for the last 10 years. Under the new structure, sociologists reporting that they are retired from their primary place of employment and no longer receiving payment for sociological work on a salaried basis are eligible for this expanded category.

Protecting Students and the Future of the Discipline

Students have long comprised about a third of ASA’s full membership. The cost of membership has increased little over the last decade and will remain where it is today under the new structure ($50 including a journal of choice).

The New Dues Structure, Beginning 2013 (2012 for Unemployed)

To compare current 2011 membership costs and the new 2013 membership costs, it is necessary to calculate a single dues amount for 2011 for each income bracket. This is done by combining the 2011 dues amount with the price of one journal. All journals are $45, with the exception of Sociological Methodology, which costs $55. The new membership costs for 2013 include any one journal of choice. Members will still be able to purchase additional journals and receive the benefit of online access to all journals if they select and pay for a second journal.

Table 1: New Income Brackets

Current Income Brackets (since 1997) for Regular Members New Income Brackets for Regular Members (2013)
Less than $20,000Unemployed
$20,000-29,999Less than $30,000
$30,000-39,999$30,000-39,999
$40,000-54,999$40,000-54,999
$55,000-69,999$55,000 -69,999
$70,000 & above $70,000-84,999

$85,000-99,999

$100,000-124,999

$125,000-149,999

$150,000 & above
Other Membership Categories:
Associate Associate
StudentStudent
Emeritus Retired

Table 2: News Dues Structure

Income Brackets: BOLD = NEW Current 2011 membership costs= dues + one $45 journal of choice Proposed 2013 membership costs including one journal of choice Difference
Unemployed* $ 71 $50 ($ 20)
Less than $20,000   $ 9
$20,000-29,999 $ 72  
Less than $30,000 $ 72 $80
$30,000-39,999 $ 115 $125 $ 10
$40,000-54,999 $167 $180 $13
$55,000-69,999 $214 $230 $16
$70,000 & above   $ 234    
$70,000-84,999 $260 $ 26
$85,000-99,999 $280 $46
$100,000-124,999 $300 $66
$125,000-149,999 $325 $ 91
$150,000 & above $350 $ 116

Additional membership categories:

  Current 2011 Proposed 2013 Difference
Associate $90 $100 $10
Student $50 $50
Retired $45 $50 $5

*Eligible for reduced section dues. The definition of Associate or Student member does not change under the new dues structure.

Impact on the Cost of Membership

"Regular members" (those who select a dues category based on their gross annual income) are 54 percent of ASA’s total membership.

Currently, nearly 10 percent of ASA’s "regular members" select a dues category based on income less than $20,000 per year. To the extent that these members are actually unemployed, their membership costs will decrease $21 in 2012 under the new dues structure. Any currently unemployed sociologist who has not felt she/he could join the ASA or who found even the current low-income category too expensive will be able to join ASA in 2012 at a cost of $50, which includes a journal, free access to the Job Bank, subsidized Annual Meeting rates, and all other ASA benefits and services.

Another 10 percent of regular members currently select the dues category based on income between $20,000 and $29,999 per year (now $72 including a required journal subscription); their membership costs will rise by $8 in 2013 under the new structure.

About 28 percent of regular members currently select a dues category based on income between $30,000 and $54,999 per year; their membership cost will rise in 2013 by either $10 or $13 under the new structure. For the 16 percent of regular members who select the $55,000-$69,999 income categories, membership costs will increase $16.

The current top dues category ($70,000 and above) is selected by 36 percent of ASA regular members. As shown above, it will be broken into five new income categories. For the first two categories ($70,000-84,999 and $85,000-99,999) membership costs will increase in 2013 by $26 and $46, respectively. The other three income categories will provide room for future expansion as members incomes rise in coming years.

For student members (33 percent of ASA’s total membership), membership costs will remain the same at $50. Many more retired sociologists (currently 5 percent of total membership), however, will be eligible for the reduced emeritus membership category and free electronic access to all journals. Associate (non-voting) members (8 percent) will pay $10 more per year ($100 including a journal).

Impact on Association Revenues

Membership revenue (defined as member dues, required journal, and section memberships) comprises about 35 percent of ASA annual revenues. Council held off introducing a change in the dues structure to restore progressivity that matches the membership’s current income distribution until there was also a need for additional revenue. Council hopes the new dues structure will increase revenues between $100,000 and $200,000 depending on the membership distribution by income levels. This is an estimated increase of about 1.7 percent to 2.4 percent of total revenues (based on 2009 finances, our last audited year).