NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Leisure Economy

June 26, 1998

The nation's 75 million baby boomers have entered their peak earning years -- 45 to 54 years old, demographers tell us, and they are spending unprecedented sums on services and recreation.

  • Last year, the average consumer spent 60 cents out of every dollar on services, up from 45 cents in 1970 -- and recreational spending as a share of total consumer spending rose from 5.5 percent in 1960 to 8.5 percent in 1979.
  • Per capita spending on recreation has tripled from $501 in 1970 to $1,543 last year, according to the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.
  • Some 50.7 million Americans went to orchestral concerts last year, the number of amateur golfers has more than doubled since 1970 to 24.3 million, and 4.4 million took luxury cruises in 1997.
  • There are now more than 1,000 amusement parks in the U.S. -- compared to only 362 in 1970.

Dallas Fed economist Michael Cox reports that paid vacations and holidays have grown from an average of 15.5 days per worker in 1970 to 22.5 days in 1995. Over the same period, the number of hours per week the average employee works has dropped from 37.1 to 34.7.


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