Pete Leeson and I are currently working on an economic explanation for UFO sightings across states. In a previous post over at the Freakonomics blog, we showed a strong positive correlation between UFO sightings and Bigfoot sightings. Our goal behind doing so was to show that the sightings are clearly motivated for economic reasons not because they actually exists (Why would UFOs and bigfoot visit the same state?)
We now have new preliminary results suggesting that UFO Sightings are strongly correlated with several different measures of tourism. Both state park acres and hotel expenditures are positive and significant in explaining the number of UFO sightings. This holds after controlling for income and urban population. We also find that UFO sightings are positively and significantly related to state and local government spending.
I am interested in getting feedback to see what you think. We recognize that at this point the relationship may not be causal, but I think these basic results are strongly suggestive that individuals may 'see' UFOs if there is an economic reason to do so.