Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair/Advisor

Reed Watson

Committee Member

Scott Templeton

Committee Member

Molly Espey


This paper estimates the effect of the coronavirus (COVID) pandemic on outdoor recreation as measured by visitation to U.S. National Parks. Economic theory suggests the pandemic and resulting state policies enacted to limit its spread could have had multiple and confounding effects: (1) increasing demand for outdoor recreation as indoor substitutes became more costly, and (2) reducing the demand for outdoor recreation as travel restrictions, mask mandates, and vaccination requirements increased the cost of park visitation. Using a multiple fixed-effect model, I estimate monthly visitation to National Parks from January 2019 through December 2021 as a function of the stringency of each state’s COVID policies. I find that a one unit increase in a state’s stringency index leads to a 1304.72 or 1.2% decrease in National Park visitation. Additionally, I find evidence that the effect of these policies dominates the increase in demand for outdoor recreation in 2020 but not in 2021. Taken together, these findings suggest that state policies can have a significant effect on National Park visitation. As the National Parks rely on visitation to survive, the National Park Service should consider state-specific policies in its budgeting process.



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