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Washington State researcher to explore rural gentrification, inequality in Spokane talk

Through her work as a sociologist, WSU Professor Jennifer Sherman has found that many rural communities in Washington are struggling.

Most have lost industries that provided living wage jobs. They have little access to healthcare, or other essential services. In some communities economic decline has been followed by waves of outsiders moving in accompanied by tourism. Those tourism jobs often pay much lower and offer little, to no benefits.

She says the pandemic work from home wave exacerbated that trend, leaving many priced out, and feeling unwelcome in places they’ve long called home.

"People didn't wave anymore, people didn't talk to them, or acknowledge them and they felt very much invisible in their own community,” she said. “And when something like that happens, and that kind of dynamic goes on for too long, it just perpetuates itself. If you don't know somebody, you’re not likely to know what are they going through?"

Sherman spoke to Spokane Public Radio’s Rebecca White about her recent book, “Dividing Paradise: Rural Inequality and the Diminishing American Dream” and a talk she will soon hold in Spokane.

Sherman will speak at the Spokane Public Library’s South Hill branch Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.