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Recreational amenities, rural migration patterns, and the Great Recession

Abstract

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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Notes

  1. Throughout this paper the terms nonmetropolitan and rural are used interchangeably. The Economic Research Service defines nonmetropolitan counties as some combination of 1) open countryside, 2) rural towns (with fewer than 2,500 people), and urban areas with populations ranging from 2,500 to 49,999 that are not part of adjacent metropolitan labor markets (http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/rural-economy-population/rural-classifications.aspx).

  2. The number of rural recreation counties has fluctuated slightly from decade to decade as counties change from being classified as nonmetropolitan to metropolitan (or vice versa) by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

  3. See http://www.ers.usda.gov for more information about the County Typology Codes.

  4. There is considerable (although not predominant) overlap between recreation counties and counties with high amenity indexes; 37 % of recreation counties rank in the top quarter of the McGranahan natural amenity index (Johnson and Beale 2002). As Winkler’s scale is not a publicly available data source, I was unable to compare whether there is substantial overlap between the Johnson and Beale typology, the McGranahan amenity index, and the destination scale.

  5. Although an updated Urban Influence Code was released in 2013 (see http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/urban-influence-codes/documentation.aspx#.U5iWJfldX0f) I use the 2003 codes because my analysis focuses on 2000–2010.

  6. See http://webarchives.cdlib.org/sw15d8pg7m/http:/ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Rurality/UrbanInf/ for more information on the 2003 Urban Influence Code.

  7. See http://www.census.gov/popest/data/intercensal/county/county2010.html for data source.

  8. Both are postcensal estimates which incorporate current data on births, deaths, and migration to produce yearly estimates. See http://www.census.gov/popest/data/counties/totals/2009/index.html and http://www.census.gov/popest/data/counties/totals/2011/index.html for data sources.

  9. This rural typology will be updated again "later in 2014" in order to take into account the 2010 Census.

  10. Seventy-eight of the 114 rural service counties are also recreation counties.

  11. Variables from the ERS county typology that contributed little to the model or were highly correlated with other variables were not included in the models. For instance, persistent child poverty and low education were excluded because of their high correlations with other variables. The retirement destination variable was excluded because it is defined based on net migration meaning it is highly correlated with the dependent variable (137 counties are both retirement and recreation).

  12. The 2003 urban influence codes divide all counties in the US into 12 groups: 2 metropolitan (large and small; not included in this analysis); 3 nonmetro micropolitan (adjacent to a large metro area, adjacent to a small metro area, and not adjacent to a metro area); 7 nonmetro noncore (divided by their adjacency to a metro or micro area and whether or not they have a town of at least 2500 residents). I group the 3 types of nonmetro micropolitan counties together and divide the 7 nonmetro noncore counties by whether or not they are adjacent to a micro or metro area). For more information, see: http://webarchives.cdlib.org/sw15d8pg7m/http:/ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Rurality/UrbanInf.

  13. In these analyses the “neighborhood” for each county was defined as the set of nearby counties that share a common border with the reference county (first order queen neighborhoods).

  14. It should be noted that many counties that are service and retirement are also recreation counties as these are not mutually exclusive typologies.

  15. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (2012), the Great Recession officially began in December of 2007 and ended in June 2009.

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Ulrich-Schad, J.D. Recreational amenities, rural migration patterns, and the Great Recession. Popul Environ 37, 157–180 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-015-0238-3

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Keywords

  • Amenity migration
  • Great Recession
  • Rural recreation counties
  • Natural amenities