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by Richard A. Peterson
(Updated May 23, 2001)
Recreation involves re-creating oneself – to be revitalized in body and mind and to affirm or extend social contacts. Re-creation also includes efforts to improve oneself, change one’s social position, and take on an identity separate from those connected to work or family. Average American adults now spend upwards of a quarter of their time in recreation, and spending on recreation accounts for more than 8.2 percent of personal consumption budgets.
The purpose of the Calvert-Henderson Re-Creation Indicator is to facilitate a better understanding of the contribution of re-creation to the quality of life in America. There is no agreed-upon model that captures a shared understanding of re-creation comparable to that in most other fields, so my co-author, Carrie Lee, and I set out to create one. We introduce three elements of the re-creation process model: resources, choice points, and types of re-creation. The institutional investments that structure re-creation include law, technology, facilities, and community diversity. Six individual and population resources that condition recreation are formal education, socialization for recreation, age, gender, discretionary time, and discretionary money. The second major element of the re-creation model is the recreation choice point. Here, depending on the institutional investments and their personal resources, individuals select among the welter of recreational opportunities of which they are aware.
The final major element of the re-creation model is the inventory of 13 major types of recreation widely available in the United States. These include experiences leading to the improvement of self or society (e.g., volunteering, visits to museums, reading newspapers, searching the Internet for information), religious activities (e.g., attending services, donating time and money to religious organizations), the patronized arts (e.g., fine arts that receive government, corporate, foundation, and private patronage), the amateur arts (e.g., active participation in crafts and fine art), hobbies (e.g., gardening, car repair, memorabilia collecting, bird watching), physical activity (e.g., participation in sports, hiking, camping, running, extreme sports), spectator sports attendance (e.g., following professional or amateur competitive sports), vicarious (media) experiences (e.g., reading fiction, television watching, listening to recorded music), virtual recreation (e.g., interactive computer and internet gaming); socializing (e.g., family celebrations, going out drinking, dining, or dancing), recreational drugs (e.g., ecstasy, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana), gambling (e.g., office pools, sports, betting, bingo clubs, casino gambling), and recreational travel for enjoyment or self improvement.
The Calvert-Henderson Re-Creation Indicator does not evaluate which forms of recreational activity are good or bad for the society or for the individual, since in a cultural democracy it is important to assess all kinds of activities, even if they are negatively evaluated by the reader or by others. This is not to say that all types of recreation are equally valuable, but that such evaluative judgments are beyond the scope of this project. The focus here is on all activities that successfully compete for many people’s discretionary time, attention, and money in the United States. The Calvert-Henderson Re-Creation model should be considered a tentative first step in an effort to more systematically chart recreation’s contribution to the quality of life.
Data on these 13 major types of recreation are presented in the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators volume, drawing primarily from the General Social Survey (GSS) findings and the Statistical Abstract of the United States. The data make it possible to show which forms of re-creation are growing in popularity. Current data suggest that Internet use for information seeking, socializing, and vicarious recreation is rising rapidly, but the impact of these changes on other aspects of recreation is not clear. The data track what forms of recreation consume the largest amount of resources. Currently the most spectacular growth is in the area of recreational drugs where laws and policing practices have increased the retail price of the once abundant marijuana to that above the price of gold. Organized crime organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the industry of penal institutions are growing rapidly. The data also follow changes in the diversity of recreation enjoyed by individuals, various segments of the population, and society at large. There is evidence that people with more than average education and income engage in a far greater diversity of recreation than do other people. Diversity of experience leads to a greater ability to problem-solve, adapt to change, and move in widely differing circles of people. This information is important for policy purposes, because diversity of recreation is vital to the quality of life of the individual and also to the development of our democratic society.