How Big is Model United Nations?

by Ryan on November 5, 2007

How many students do Model United Nations in the United States?

I can’t find any reliable sources that will answer this question definitively. MUN, of course, is not centralized, so there’s no database that can tell me the answer.

Let’s turn this into a market-sizing question, one that you might get asked in an interview with a strategy consulting firm like McKinsey or Bain.

Assume there are about 300 million people in the United States. Assume that the average lifespan is 80 and there are an equal number of people in each age group, i.e. the same number of 3 year olds as 73 year olds. That leaves 3.75 million people in any given age group (yes this is straight out of Case in Point).

Now, who does MUN? Mainly students in high school and college. Yes, the number of middle school MUNers is rapidly growing, and yes, there are those people who continue to do MUN after graduating, but I think those are much smaller groups, and ones that will be covered in my estimates. Also, I’m defining someone who “does MUN” as someone who either attends or staffs MUN conferences.

So let’s look at high school and college students as two separate groups. High school spans 4 years, so according to our assumptions of 3.75 million people in each age group, that’s about 15 million high schoolers in the country. So how many high school students do MUN? Well my high school MUN program had 200 students in a school of 2500; that’s 8%. But I come from Orange County, where MUN is crazy intense and there are at least five other schools with 200 person programs, so 8% is probably really high. I also realize that there are many high schools without MUN programs. And I also know that the United Nations Association’s Global Classrooms Program is starting MUN programs in every major American city. I think that, in your average 2000 person high school, it’s reasonable to assume maybe 10 kids do MUN, which is about 0.5%. But again, given that there are a number of larger programs thanks to places like Orange County and programs like Global Classrooms, bump that number up to 0.75%. Assume that applies to the entire high school population of 15 million students, and that comes out to about 112,500 high school MUNers.

Apply this same train of thought to college. Again, 4 years of college, so 15 million college students. I don’t think MUN is as popular amongst college students as it is amongst high schoolers; there seem to be fewer college conferences than high school ones, and there’s no Global Classrooms program for college students. At Yale, there are about 50 people who staff our college and high school conferences. In a school of 5,000 undergraduates, that’s 1%. But again, I think my school is an outlier; we run two conferences a year, whereas most MUN clubs don’t run any. I’ve visited my MUN friends at UCLA, and there can’t be more than 50 MUNers in a school of 15,000 undergraduates; that’s 1/3%. So let’s place the number of college MUNers at about 0.5%, which comes out to 75,000 college students.

Put those numbers together and we get about 187,500 students in the United States who do MUN. Note that I haven’t examined the retention or attrition rate, meaning that there are people who start doing MUN and then quit later in high school or college. But I think there are also a number of people who pick up MUN later in high school or college, so it evens out somewhat. Even so, let’s be conservative and round down to 180,000.

There are about 180,000 MUNers in the United States. Does this number sound reasonable to you?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: