Justin Farrell calls Teton County, Wyoming, the Billionaire Wilderness . In his new book of that name, the Yale professor and author explores this corner of cowboy country, which has quietly morphed into the richest region of America. The 10,000-square-kilometre (4,200-square-mile) patch of the west, which includes the ski resort of Jackson Hole, has the highest per capita income in the country – US$251,728, or US$58,000 higher than New York City's, which now sits second. To the north, next door is Park County, Wyoming, undergoing a similar shift thanks to being home to celebrity couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West . There's a draw in terms of masculinity and violence, but when you dress up, it allows you to hide the fact that this is such an economically unequal area – it camouflages that moral loophole Justin Farrell, author, Billionaire Wilderness Nearly eight of every 10 dollars in income earned in Teton County in 2015 came from interest and dividends instead of conventional wages. No wonder, given that the estates there are owned by the likes of Dick Cheney, Harrison Ford and Walmart heiress Christy Walton; the money here is mostly earned from investment, rather than nine-to-fiving. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Susan Winfree (@smwinfree) on Feb 11, 2020 at 7:22am PST But there's a darker side to this story: Teton County also earned the distinction of being the county with the worst wealth inequality in America. The top one per cent of its earners log half its income, while the folks who work for them earn minimum wages; mostly Mexican immigrants today, several families often live cramped together in the same trailer, a few miles from billionaires' vast estates. Farrell is well-placed to explore and unpack this phenomenon. He's a sociologist by training and a native of Wyoming who grew up among the original blue collar locals, tagging along as his mother cleaned houses each summer. In a recent conversation, he explained how and why Teton County turned into a billionaire wilderness, and what that means – not just for Wyoming, but for the whole of America. Teton County is like a real-life Westworld The lure of Wyoming is its throwback feel that evokes both childhood games of cowboys and America's early European history. “There's always been this idea about coming to the west and finding the soul of America – this magnetic, raw pull,” Farrell explains of the region, which has even inspired a full-size replica in a resort community just north of Beijing. Malibu to Manhattan: inside Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez’s luxury homes Wyoming allows one-percenters to role-play what might seem a simpler life like a real-life Westworld , albeit without the android brothels. Think of them as would-be Connor Roys: back-to-the-land billionaires like the eldest son in Succession , who shuns his family's ritzy New York life in favour of a faux-rustic rich man's existence on a ranch. “There's a draw in terms of masculinity and violence, but when you dress up, it allows you to hide the fact that this is such an economically unequal area,” Farrell explains. “It camouflages that moral loophole.” Wyoming's appeal for the ultra-rich is about saving things There are other lures here beyond the chance to channel your childhood cowboy. Wyoming is almost allergic to taxation: there's no income tax, effectively low property taxes and at four per cent, its sales tax is the lowest in the nation. Add to that conveniently loose residency requirements and it's easy for one-percenters to shave six-figure sums off their IRS bills each year by decamping, at least part-time, to Jackson Hole. The money they save is often spent on philanthropy, like guilt-cleansing greenwashing; they're so in love with the land here that wealthy incomers often use their fortunes to protect it – 97 per cent of Teton County is now under federal conservation. The problem with that, of course, is it often means the armies of staff who tend to wealthy Wyomingites are squeezed out of the area. Farrell nods back to the creation of Yellowstone here, the world's first national park, which itself displaced countless indigenous communities. There's a disconnect, though, between wealthy folks' intentions and their effects. From Buckingham Palace to Antilia – 5 of the most extravagant homes “Think about the oil and gas CEO who moves here and becomes passionate about saving the moose, but doesn't feel the same about climate change,” he explains. “There's a sense among the ultra-wealthy here that plutocracy works, that wealthy people can take care of the community, but that's actually heavy-handed and anti-democratic.” Farrell spent several years interviewing both the elite and the working poor in Teton County. While his book was completed pre-pandemic, Farrell continued to speak to locals as the coronavirus spread across the US. He often used a technique known as “paired interviews”, where he spoke to employers and employees separately about the same subjects. In these interviews, many of the wealthy stressed how much they loved hanging out with their blue collar buddies, each treating the other as equals. The feeling, however, wasn't always mutual, especially during the pandemic, when many part-timers moved to their ranches to wait out the pandemic. Hourly workers complained to Farrell that consideration for their well-being and health had largely taken second place to ensuring that homes and gardens were well-maintained. Bowling alleys, personal vineyards – which celeb has the wildest home feature? Local one-percenters consider Jackson Hole the anti-Aspen Nowhere better embodies the low-key, outdoorsy wealth of Jackson Hole than the Yellowstone Club. The 55,000-hectare (13,600-acre) resort is one of the most exclusive clubs in the world – and not just because joining fees are US$300,000 with annual dues of US$40,000 or so. The club was founded in 1997 as a hideaway for the one-percenters that developer Tim Blixseth saw were beginning to flock to the county (Blixseth is no longer involved after a nasty divorce and accusations of nine-figure fraud, which led to his ex-wife taking ownership of the property). It has its own mountain and has trademarked the term Private Powder; members include Bill Gates, Jack Kemp and Tom Brady. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Yellowstone Club (@yellowstoneclub) on Jun 19, 2020 at 6:47am PDT Men like those often slough off their real-world trappings once on their property there, as one member told Farrell of a business rival. “He's such an asshole outside of the club, but when he comes here, he's the nicest guy,” the member told Farrell. “Our paths sometimes cross outside of the club, but I just avoid him. But here, he's great.” Meanwhile, rich Jackson Hole locals sneered consistently about Aspen, the jet set bolt-hole in nearby Colorado. “It's 100 per cent the bogeyman, because people flaunt wealth there – more bling-bling than bang-bang,” Farrell laughs. “In Jackson Hole, they don't want to be viewed as ‘out of touch rich people’ – better, for instance, to drive an Escalade truck than an Aspen-style Tesla.” Farrell warns that there are other western regions where the same problems and income disparities are emerging, citing, as examples, Boise, Idaho; Bozeman, Montana; and Reno, Nevada. “You're starting to see the same issues anywhere near open space, with a high quality of life, sunshine, access to recreation, and a decent economy,” Farrell says, predicting that the work from home edicts resulting from the pandemic will only accelerate this change. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter . This article originally appeared on Business Insider .