The Association Between Natural Amenities, Rural Population Growth, and Long-Term Residents' Economic Weil-Being*


  • *

    This research has been funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Research Initiative, Grant Number: 2003–35401-13888. These analyses are based on manuscripts presented at the Rural Sociological Society Annual Meeting, August 2004 (Sacramento, CA) and the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, August 2004 (San Francisco, CA). Direct correspondence to: Lori M. Hunter, University of Colorado, Institute of Behavioral Science, Program on Environment and Behavior, Campus Box 468, Boulder, CO USA 80309; 303–492-1006; e-mail:


Abstract  Population growth in rural areas characterized by high levels of natural amenities has recently received substantial research attention. A noted concern with amenity-driven rural population growth is its potential to raise local costs-of-living while yielding only low-wage service sector employment for long-term residents. The work presented here empirically models long-term rural residents' economic well-being, making use of longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. In general, the results suggest that long-term rural families residing in high-growth amenity and recreation areas tend to have higher annual incomes than do their counterparts in non-growth amenity/recreation areas, regardless of the sex, race, or age of the family head. However, higher costs-of-living in these areas supplant any relative gains in income. As such, these analyses provide empirical evidence of patterns inferred by earlier anecdotal evidence and case studies.