At a time of growing income inequality in the U.S., one town has earned the dubious distinction of being more unequal than all others. According to a recent report, the top 1 percent of earners in Jackson, Wyoming took home over 68 percent of total income in 2013, far more than any other place in America. Jackson’s high cost of living and shortage of affordable housing is pricing many who work there right out of town.
CCTV America’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.
High living expenses makes housing difficult for many in Jackson HoleAt a time of growing income inequality in the U.S., one town has earned the dubious distinction of being more unequal than all others. According to a recent report, the top 1 percent of earners in Jackson, Wyoming took home over 68 percent of total income in 2013, far more than any other place in America. Jackson’s high cost of living and shortage of affordable housing is pricing many who work there right out of town. CCTV America’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.
In Jackson, Wyoming, some residents get into a loud argument in the town’s public square. Shots are fired. Before long, bodies lie in the street. Fortunately, this is all theater, performed for tourists who’ve come to Jackson partly for its Wild West character, and are only too happy to tip the actors once the show is over. These actors are only too happy to get the spare change.
“I get to see the pretty and ugly sides of Jackson basically,” Jackson Resident, Jorge Moreno said.
Jorge Moreno is a longtime resident of Jackson who works two jobs and has always had trouble making ends meet here.
“Every single time when somebody asks if I live in Jackson, I say no, I survive in Jackson,” Moreno said.
Teton County, Wyoming, in which Jackson sits, is one of America’s most scenic and richest counties with an average income of around $300,000 a year. It features a number of fine properties.
Homes that jump off the pages of real estate catalogs. Homes for which there’s more demand than supply. The cost of real estate has skyrocketed here.
“The difference between the one percent and the 99 percent is, it’s just incredible,” Moreno said.
Last year, Moreno, who lives in Jackson’s largest apartment complex, learned his rent would be going up more than 40 percent.
“Meaning that I was paying 1250 for a two-bedroom apartment and it was going to go to 1800 dollars. Something that I couldn’t afford,” Moreno said.
And he wasn’t the only one.
“It was happening around town everywhere but when it hit this big apartment complex, everybody just reacted,” Moreno said.
Renters protested. Moreno convinced his landlord to spread the increase out over two years instead.
Jackson’s affordable housing director said with 97 percent of land around town federally protected and tall buildings in town frowned upon, housing is very scarce here. She’s working with private developers and employers who are having trouble filling jobs to address the problem.
“We need a lot of rental stock for those poor families and individuals and then we need more ownership stock for those middle class workers who can’t afford a $700,000 starter home,” said April Norton, from Jackson-Teton County Affordable Housing Department.
She said the employees who keep Jackson running and thriving are part of the community’s character and shouldn’t be driven away.
“If everyone just leaves at 5 and goes back to wherever they are then what is Jackson? It’s not a place that I certainly would want to raise my family,” Norton said.
Moreno isn’t sure if he and his family can afford to stay in Jackson. Either way, he said, the town’s working class needs help.
Tiziana Dearing on income inequality
For more about income inequality in around the world, CCTV America’s Michelle Makori interviewed Tiziana Dearing, professor at Boston College.