Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Analysis of Leisure Expenditures in the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Analysis of Leisure Expenditures in the United States

Article excerpt


In the past few decades the United States has undergone significant social and economic changes. These include increased participation by married women in the labor force, greater interest in physical fitness and changes in the composition of the population. These economic and social changes have affected leisure and non-leisure aspects of life. Time use studies indicate that from the 1960s to 1980s there bas been an increase in time spent on leisure activities, particularly by younger people (Hill, 1985; Juster, 1985a; Juster, 1985b; Robinson, 1985; Stafford and Duncan, 1985). However, the information on expenditures on leisure activities is limited.

This research was undertaken to investigate the determinants of leisure expenditures by households in the United States. Three leisure categories were investigated. They were active leisure, passive leisure and social entertainment. Active leisure included those activities needing some physical effort such as jogging and cycling while passive leisure included non-physical activities such as watching TV or listening to a radio. Social entertainment included attendance at sports events and theaters and other away from home entertainment. These three categories were chosen based on previous time use studies. Quarterly data from the 1988-89 Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Study were used and the sample was confined to households for which information was available for four consecutive quarters.(1) The final sample size was 2,088 households.

The research differs from previous studies of leisure expenditures in several ways. First, three categories of leisure activities were examined. Second, consideration was given to the source of income in examining the impact of income on the leisure expenditures. Finally, tobit analysis was used since some households had zero expenditures in a particular category. The results of this research should be of use to consumer economists and to professionals in the leisure activities industries by providing information on the impact of economic and demographic conditions on three types of leisure expenditures.


There have been only a few studies on participation in or expenditures on leisure activities. A study concerning the effect of education and income on outdoor recreation participation was conducted by White (1975) using Canadian data for 1969. The data were provided by the Outdoor Recreation Research Section of the Canadian National and Historic Parks Branch. The sample gave information about the socioeconomic characteristics of 2,969 households and their participation in 26 outdoor recreation activities. White used Chi-square analysis to examine the effect of occupation on participation in these 26 activities. There were six occupation groups (professional, executive, sales, clerical and other white collar, skilled labor and unskilled labor). The results indicated that occupation was significantly related to participation in outdoor recreation. Persons with occupations that require higher levels of education participated in more activities.

White also used multiple regression analysis for a variety of activities. The dependent variable was the number of times an individual reported participating in an activity. The independent variables were occupation, income, family size, age and city size. Occupation turned out to be a weak predictor of participation in outdoor recreation activities once other explanatory variables were taken into consideration. The main predictors were income and education.

Thompson and Tinsley (1978) analyzed data from 104 households in South Carolina to determine income elasticities for recreation using annual data collected from 1955 to 1975. The dependent variable was per capita recreation expenditures and included expenditures on vacations, club dues, sporting equipment and tickets to sporting events and movies. The independent variable was per capita take home pay. …

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