Econ Quiz: Escape to Wisconsin

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April 2022

Econ Quiz readers of a certain age may remember the catchphrase “Escape to Wisconsin” found on many bumper stickers. This slogan was used to promote the state’s tourist destinations, but may also have referred to Wisconsin as a growing destination for owners and renters of the state’s seasonal and recreational housing developments. Indeed, Wisconsin’s seasonal and recreational housing units grew by over 50% in the 1970s and have continued to increase in number, albeit at slower rates since that time.

Homes for seasonal, recreational and occasional use account for 4.0% of all United States housing units and are concentrated in many counties associated with well-known tourist destinations including the Outer Banks of North Carolina; the mountainous Colorado Front Range; and coastal counties bordering the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and Texas. High concentrations are also found in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, which rank as the three top states in terms of seasonal and recreational homes as a share of all housing units. Other notable locations include counties with high levels of natural amenities in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Utah; counties around distinct destinations such as Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, and the Northwoods of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. In fact, 20 Wisconsin counties have 20% or more of their total housing units designated as seasonal and recreational units. Vilas, Oneida, and Marinette counties are among the top 100 counties nationwide in terms of total seasonal and recreational housing units.

In Wisconsin, the non-metro distribution of seasonal and recreational housing units is even greater than the national average. Almost 70% of Wisconsin’s total housing units are located in metro counties compared to just 17% of its seasonal and recreational units. In comparison, rural counties with an urban population of 2,500 to 19,999 residents contain 16.4% of the state’s housing units, but 47% of all seasonal and recreational housing units. Furthermore, Wisconsin’s most rural counties are home to just 5% of all housing units and 27% of all seasonal and recreational units.

What percentage of all housing units in Wisconsin are classified as seasonal and recreational units?

A. 15.9%

B. 3.2%

C. 9.4%

D. 7.1%

E. 10.1%


Answers: D. Wisconsin places eighth among all states for both total seasonal and recreational housing units, and 7.1% of all housing units in the Badger state are seasonal and recreational units.

Source: Kures, M. (2022). Seasonal and Recreational Housing Units in Wisconsin. WIndiators Series Vol. 4, No. 3. Division of Extension, University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

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