Comparing Michigan’s outdoor recreation economy to Illinois and Wisconsin

Outdoor Industry Association provides state statistics on the Outdoor Recreation Economy across the United States of America.

Since 2007, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has released a national report every five years describing the importance and magnitude of the outdoor recreation economy (ORE) in the U.S. The most recent edition was released in early 2017 highlighting the growth of the industry between 2011 and 2016. This report takes a broader view of the growing industry and its shifting demographics. The growth of the industry tells the story of the importance of outdoor recreation across the U.S.

A recent report from Michigan State University Extension reviews the growth of the industry and what is considered to be the economy of the future.

The 2017 report groups states by region, for example, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio are considered the East North Central Region (ENCR). Those five states together, according to the Outdoor Industry Association, are said to generate $7.9 billion in federal tax revenue and $7.6 billion in state and local tax revenue from ORE. OIA has released statistics on the impact of the Outdoor Recreation Economy for each state too, but how does Michigan compare to the other ENCR states? This article will compares Michigan’s outdoor recreation economy to Illinois and Wisconsin.

OR=Outdoor Recreation




% of residents that participate annually in OR

63 percent

56 percent

66 percent

Direct Jobs in OR




State/Local Taxes Generated from OR (in billions)




Wages and Salaries (in billions)




Consumer spending (annually)




According to the statistics provided by OIA, Michigan, with our abundance of natural resources and outdoor opportunities, benefits more so from direct jobs and consumer spending compared to Illinois and Wisconsin.. However, Outdoor Industry Association states that more Wisconsin residents engage in the ORE annually than both MI and IL. However, both Michigan and Illiniois benefit roughly the same in wages and salaries from Outdoor Recreation Economy.

However, all three states depend more on ORE jobs than the insurance industry in Illinois, the dairy industry in Wisconsin and the aerospace industry in Michigan.

With our access to lakes and streams, trails and public lands, it is no wonder that the OIA reports Michigan residents are more like to go kayaking and camping, Wisconsin residents are more likely to go fishing and sightseeing, and Illinois residents are more likely to go cycling on paved road and trail/road running than the average American. 

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