Pushed Out: the working class in Idaho

In Part Three of our series on Idaho, Sociologist Ryanne Pilgeram on the long arc of exploitation in timber country

  
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Normal people can’t afford to live in North Idaho anymore.

As of 2019 — the most recent data we have — the median household income in Bonner County was $50,256, almost 25% below the national average of $65,712. That year, median housing sale prices fluctuated between $307,000 and $340,000. Not cheap, but payments would be well under the 30% of income that finance nerds say is ideal for people to pay their bills and survive.

Barely two years later, the median sale price is $675,000.

Unless wages have doubled — and we know they haven’t! — a normal Bonner County home would need to spend well over 50% of their income for a normal house.

This isn’t the first cycle of displacement in North Idaho history. It’s been happening since the first fur trappers arrived, and really took off during the period of the Homestead Act and Indian removal.

And while markets change, it’s the same old exploitation. That’s the topic of our third and, for now, final episode on what the hell is happening in Idaho.

We speak to Sociologist Ryanne Pilgeram about timber, labor militancy and the switch that flipped 25 years ago, turning North Idaho from reliably pro-labor Democrat to run-of-the-mill Republican and then the slide toward deeper and deeper conservatism that lands us squarely in the present day.

If you like the converation, you’ll love Ryanne’s book Pushed Out, a fascinating sociology of the small former mill town of Dover, Idaho.