JACKSON, Wyo. — Economic disparity has become synonymous with Jackson Hole, and a segment on CBS News “Sunday Morning” highlights the impact on housing from both sides of the socioeconomic spectrum.
“There’s a saying in town that you either have three homes or three jobs,” correspondent Ben Tracy said during the show, which aired on Oct. 16. He interviewed bartender Elizabeth Hutchings, who moved to Jackson in 2018 and has lived in eight or nine places since then, including her car. Tracy also interviewed Phil Hartl, a private wealth advisor who left California in late 2020 after purchasing a home in Jackson.
Between shots of the Tetons, construction sites and large homes, the show cites Teton County’s average income as $312,000 and the median home price as more than $3.6 million. The local food pantry is described as being “overwhelmed by demand, staring at $6 million townhomes rising across the street.”
Wyomingite and Yale School of the Environment professor Justin Farrell says the middle class is gone during an interview with Tracy, saying the inequality in Teton County is “uniquely bad…nation-leading bad.” He describes people making up to $60,000 per year being forced to live in their cars or 45 minutes away.
Farrell explores these topics in his book “Billionaire Wilderness,” as well as the idea that a wealthy individual can “become a normal person” by removing class indicators embracing Western stereotypes of dressing in jeans and driving a truck.
Hartl acknowledges that because he was able to buy an expensive home during Covid, he might be considered “part of the problem.” As a result, he feels an obligation to give back to the community and will donate one-third of his tax savings to a few of the nonprofits in Jackson.
While Hutchings loves living in Jackson, she doesn’t know if she’ll be here in 10 years, but she wants other service workers like herself to be able to live in the area with a better quality of life.
“If we don’t find a way to create a more equitable society and to support people with housing and human services, you won’t have an economy,” she said.
To watch the full segment, click here.