When the future of the county is discussed, we often hear the admonition that "We don't want to become Nantucket ... or Jackson Hole!" Truth be told, no community should ever want to be us. By almost any measure, we are an economic and demographic wreck ... all the more so because most of the people who live here are in denial about it.
Today we begin a series of articles about the economy of San Juan County. We are not who we think we are, and this series will focus on facts, not marketing hype. We will show the facts and numbers as presented in government statistics and university studies, not tourist brochures.
We begin with income inequality. We present two simple items of information - one from the New York Times and another from a 40-year study of income inequality of the Pacific Northwest prepared by Eastern Washington University.
The 2014 study from Eastern Washington University can be found here. It shows San Juan County to have the greatest income inequality of anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. The study looked at 143 counties, including all the counties of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; and 24 counties in western Montana.
The New York Times information can be found here. It's based on research from Harvard University, and it's focus is income mobility ... how likely you are to change your station in life? It shows that growing up in San Juan County is a misfortune for the future earnings of our children compared to growing up somewhere else in the nation. We are below average in helping poor kids up the income ladder ... but for average or rich kids, we're a tragedy. After growing up in San Juan County, the future earnings of average-income and rich kids is negative compared to growing up somewhere else in the nation. In fact, for those cohorts, we are at the the bottom of the pile. Growing up almost anywhere else is better for the future earnings of our children than growing up here.
As you sow, so shall you reap.
A friend sent me the photos below of notes from a community meeting on one of our islands. The meeting was convened to discuss the growing drug problem in these islands. People were asked to write down the root causes of the drug problem.