646 Billion More Reasons to Love the Outdoors


“Everything grows outside, including jobs and the economy.”

So begins a report released yesterday by the Outdoor Industry Association touting the positive impact outdoor recreation has on the U.S. economy. The trade association commissioned the study as an update to a similar economic impact assessment it published in 2006, and the group sums up much of its message with this massive figure: $646 billion. That’s how much Americans spent directly on outdoor recreation in 2011. What’s more, that spending has gone up by about 5 percent each year since 2005–a timeframe when many other sectors of the economy have gone down.

As national park lovers know, going outside isn’t just a pastime for many people: It’s an important part of our budget.

The organization divides this spending into two areas: products, such as apparel and equipment ($120.7 billion), and trips and travel-related expenses, including everything from gasoline to souvenirs ($524.8 billion). Combined, these purchases support 6.1 million jobs and $80 billion in tax revenue. That’s more than we spend on our cars, our utilities, or our prescription drugs each year. That’s… well, not as much as we spend on outpatient health care. But it’s close.

Some more interesting facts from the report:

  • The economy would lose $32 million per day if budget cuts shut down national parks.
  • More American jobs depend on outdoor recreation (6.1 million) than transportation (4.3 million), construction (5.5 million), or finance and insurance (5.8 million).
  • More American jobs depend on trail sports alone (768,000) than there are lawyers in the United States (728,200).
  • Americans spend nearly as much on snow sports ($53 billion) as they do on internet access ($54 billion).

Learn more by reading the report–or just go outside and feel patriotic about how you choose to create your own stimulus package!

-Jennifer Errick, Editor, Online Communications

About the Author

Editor of Online Communications Jennifer Errick
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