Recreational Amenities, Rural Migration Patterns, and the Great Recession

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Population and Environment

Publication Date



Springer Netherlands



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Natural and recreational amenities have played an important role in drawing migrants to rural areas in the USA over the past 40 years. However, less is known about the independent role of desirable recreational amenities in recent migration patterns, whether these patterns vary by age, and how the most recent economic recession affected them. I find that counties with desirable recreational amenities experienced net in-migration from 2000 to 2010 regardless of other county-level attributes, although the direction and magnitude of the effect varied when taking the age group of migrants into account. The recreation status of a county was a predictor of out-migration among emerging adults and in-migration for all other age groups. The Great Recession had a significant impact on migration trends in rural areas, including reducing the effect of recreational amenities in migration. These findings highlight the importance of refining the definition of “amenities,” how broader economic trends impact growth patterns in rural places, and the age-specific nature of the amenity migration trend. Knowledge about the current drivers of population patterns in rural places can help stakeholders better plan for future population trends and accommodate new or existing residents in rural recreation destinations. This study builds on existing amenity growth literature by providing a more contextual analysis of this demographic trend.

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