The Allocation of Time and Risk of Lyme: A Case of Ecosystem Service Income and Substitution Effects
Forests are often touted for their ecosystem services, including outdoor recreation. Historically forests were a source of danger and were avoided. Forests continue to be reservoirs for infectious diseases and their vectors—a disservice. We examine how this disservice undermines the potential recreational services by measuring the human response to environmental risk using exogenous variation in the risk of contracting Lyme Disease. We find evidence that individuals substitute away from spending time outdoors when there is greater risk of Lyme Disease infection. On average individuals spent 1.54 fewer minutes per day outdoors at the average, 72 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed cases of Lyme Disease. We estimate lost outdoor recreation of 9.41 h per year per person in an average county in the Northeastern United States and an aggregate welfare loss on the order $2.8 billion to $5.0 billion per year.