Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

David A. Patterson

Committee Members

James Spencer, Matthew Murray


Traditionally, state and local governments have sought to improve the lives of their residents by attracting manufacturing industries. Communities with natural advantages for tourism are often criticized for their lack of interest in pursuing new manufacturing plants. Because of the dominance of the marketplace, jobs in tourism areas are concentrated in trade and service industries. Although both tourism and manufacturing industries provide tax revenues to state and local governments and receive infrastructure from these governments, decision-makers question the wisdom of allowing jobs to concentrate in non-manufacturing industries. Critics claim that tourism jobs provide a lower standard of living for residents of tourism communities as compared to manufacturing communities. This thesis investigates the issues of job growth and changes in the standard of living in tourism- and manufacturing-based counties over a period of twenty-five to thirty years. The study is limited to three recognized tourism counties with populations less than 100,000 selected from three regions of the United States. These were paired with manufacturing counties of a similar population size located in the same state. This study concludes that manufacturing-based economies in quasi-rural counties do not provide a higher standard of living than tourism-based economies. In fact, indicators like poverty, income, education, jobs, healthcare, government revenue and environmental impacts are more positive for tourism counties. Negative effects of tourism are higher unemployment, higher crime rates, and a slightly higher cost for housing. These results support a balanced approach to growth that uses a county's comparative advantage.

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