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Trends in State Government Park and Recreation: Expenditures and Employment – 2000 to 2014

Nicholas Pitas, Austin G. Barrett, B. Derrick Taff, Andrew J. Mowen


This manuscript is a replication of a 2004 study by Crompton and Kaczynski, providing trend data for state expenditures on parks, recreation, and related services, as well as park and recreation employment at the state government level. Whereas Crompton and Kaczynski examined the final decade of the 20th century, the present analysis covers the period of 2000-2001 to 2013-2014 (2014-2015 for employment data). With the seismic economic upheaval in the United States during this period, the time is ripe for such a replication analysis. While the original study period largely saw consistent growth in the American economy, the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 was the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. Using census data, all figures were adjusted for inflation, and are reported in 2014 dollars unless otherwise noted. While Crompton and Kaczynski (2004) reported growth in both total state spending and expenditures on parks and recreation during the 1990s, data from the current period of analysis reveal a starkly different situation. During the study period, total direct expenditures across all state government service areas increased by approximately 22%; growth was relatively flat in the post-recession period, rising less than 3%. State expenditures on parks and recreation fell by 29% across the study period, including an 18% decrease in the post-recession period. Non-capital expenditures fell by nearly 18% across the study period, and by nearly 13% in the post-recession period; capital expenditures fell approximately 63% across the study period, and 42% in the post-recession period. As a result, park and recreation expenditures fell as a proportion of total state expenditures from .54% to .31%. Self-generated revenue fell by 16% across the study period, and by 13% in the post-recession period. As in the original analysis, expenditures and self-generated revenue varied widely on a state-by-state basis. In contrast to the original analysis, the number of full-time employees increased: by 6% across the study period, and 5% post-recession. As in the original analysis part-time employees decreased, by nearly 22% across the study period, and 17% post-recession. In adjusted dollar terms, full-time annual salaries fell from nearly $52,000 in 2000-2001 to approximately $44,000 in 2014-2015, an almost 14% decline. Part-time hourly wages fell from a peak of $17.88 pre-recession to $14.40 post-recession, a decrease of nearly 20%. In light of this information, implications for the public, practitioners, advocates, researchers, and educators are discussed.

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Employment; financing; replication; state parks and recreation; trend analysis

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