Blog Post

Insight: Recreation: Antidote to Rural Population and Job Loss?

By: Jennifer Leaver

A recent Headwaters Economics (HWE) study found that during the Great Recession recovery (2010–2016), rural U.S. counties with recreational assets—or “recreation counties”—attracted new residents, reported higher incomes, and generated faster earnings growth compared with rural non-recreation counties.[i]  Specific report findings include:

  • Rural recreation counties gained 1 person per 1,000 residents while rural non-recreation counties lost 20 people per 1,000 residents.
  • The average annual income of households moving into rural recreation counties was $8,700 higher than those moving into rural non-recreation counties.
  • Recreation appears to draw tourism-related businesses and attract new residents who may be business owners, entrepreneurs, or workers.

Of Utah’s 29 counties, HWE identified 14 as “rural” and defined nine of these as “recreation counties” (see Table 1).[ii]

Table 1: Economic Performance and Migration Data in Utah’s Rural Counties