The top 1% of earners in the Jakckson Hole area earn 213 times what the bottom 99% take home. Ryan Dunfee photo.
While there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence pointing towards the increasing strife the middle of class of our treasured home zone, Jackson Hole, is facing in increasing magnitudes–namely, the violently stretched and wildly expensive housing options–no news has hit home like the official word from the Economic Policy Institute.
The EPI's latest report, Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county, listed the Jackson metro area–which includes both the Wyoming and Idaho sides of Teton Pass–as, officially, the most economically unequal metropolitan area in the entire country. The top 1% of earners earn a whopping 68.3% of all the area's income, while the bottom 90% make just 17.3% of the total.
In plain english, while nationally the top 1% of earners earn, on average, about 25 times that of the bottom 99%, in Jackson, the top 1% earn an astounding 213 times what the bottom 99% take home. That's almost 9 times as imbalanced as the rest of the country. Even in the wealthy Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut metro area, with its concentration of investment and banking wealth, that ratio is "just" 73.1 to 1.
While wealth has never been shy about relocating to Jackson Hole–its natural wonders, and lack of personal or corporate income tax, has attracted American wealth as far back as the Rockefellers–the influx of money has been particularly acute in the past few years.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's well-earned place at the top of best-of lists from Ski Magazine and Forbes has no doubt piqued the interest of the ski-obsessed niche of America's upper class, fueling a corresponding growth in real estate buys in Teton Village, the area at the base of the resort.
Meanwhile, a tight housing supply with next to no opportunities for new inventory and, perhaps even more of an issue, the extremely high cost of buying and building a home in the area, means that that single stalwart of financial independence–home ownership–is out of reach for the majority of the town's middle class.
A quick search on Zillow finds just a few condos available–all under 700 square feet–for under $300,000. While the median home price is America today sits at $187,000, the average home price in the town of Jackson itself has swollen to around $1.2 million.
A Small Town, Loved To Death?
With Yellowstone wonders getting trampled on and working families being kicked out of barebones housing left and right, it's been a summer for tough introspection in the Jackson community. Ryan Dunfee photo.
While finding room and affordability for ski bums and even working professionals in the landscape of American mountain communities, all of which face their own problems from influxes of wealth, Jackson Hole is facing it at a level no other mountain community seems to be. Wyoming's low tax burden–the state doesn't levy either a personal or corporate income tax–has certainly convinced plenty with lots of money they'd prefer to hold onto to move both themselves and their business, often investment-focused, to the state, and to Jackson Hole in particular.
As a result, Jackson's local government is under immense pressure to find ways to generate new, affordable housing. With the centenary of the National Park Service expected to drive five million tourists through Jackson to visit neighboring Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, summer invites a new layer of stresses despite the verdant landscape, beautiful scenery, and long days with plenty of time outside living the dream.
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