Women in Wyoming have notched many firsts in the nation, including the first woman justice of the peace, the first woman in the nation to be elected to state office and the first woman governor. Women in Wyoming were also the first to be given the right to vote and serve jury duty. It was those women who set the stage for a more equal nation, which is why Wyoming is nicknamed the Equality State.
Located in the Rocky Mountains in the western U.S., Wyoming is one of only three states bordered by straight lines. The ninth largest state in the nation in terms of land area, Wyoming is mostly plateaus broken up by mountains ranges. 10 national forests with slightly more than 10 million acres dot the state's landscape. The territory was first formed in 1865 after an Ohio Congressman suggested cutting off parts of the Utah, Dakota and Idaho territories to form what is known today as Wyoming. It officially became the 44th state in 1890.
In 2014, as well as the previous two years, Wyoming ranked as one of the top 10 most livable states in the nation in CQ Press’s annual report. One reason is that there are just over 584,000 residents, the smallest state population in the nation and the second lowest population density after Alaska. However, things are changing steadily in Wyoming, given that it’s the 23rd fastest growing state with a population growth rate of nearly 4% between 2010 and 2015. Other key livability factors include the fact that the median household income as of early 2016 was $57,406 – roughly $4,000 above the U.S. median – while the poverty rate was below the U.S. average at 11%.
Yet as the state’s appeal and population have increased, so have real estate prices, which appreciated by a remarkable 33% between 2005 and 2015. As of early 2016, the median home value was $196,958, roughly $13,000 higher than the U.S. median. That’s a far cry from 2005, when the median home value was well below national standards at $154,727. Not coincidentally, some of the most expensive vacation real estate in America is found in western Wyoming, near Jackson, Teton Village and the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. In early 2016, the city of Jackson had the highest median home value in the state at $540,067 within the city limits.
Some of the main drivers of Wyoming's economy include its mineral extraction, tourism, construction and government sectors. The federal government owns more than 48 percent of the state's landmass, the sixth highest percentage in the country, and nearly 80 percent of Wyoming's minerals – from coal to natural gas - are found on that land. Private producers pay royalties to the federal government on the resources they extract from the land. In return, Wyoming receives half of those royalties from the federal government.
The state leads the nation in coal and trona production, and it ranks fifth and eighth, respectively, in the production of natural gas and crude oil. Notably, Wyoming comes in first in the U.S. for the percentage of jobs associated with mining (9%), government (24%) and construction (8%), as well as sixth for hospitality and leisure (12%). Agriculture is also still part of the state's culture and commerce, though less of an economic power than it was in the past. Despite that change, Wyoming remains first in the nation for the size of its farms, which average 2,568 acres. Leading agricultural products include cattle, sheep, wool, alfalfa hay, barley and sugar beets.
Yet while agriculture shrinks, tourism is rapidly increasing. A record 10 million people visited Wyoming in 2014 to take in attractions such as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks (which together logged more than 6 million recreational visitors), Fossil Butte National Monument and famed ski destinations like Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort. Visitor spending totaled $3.4 billion, while tourism generated $168 million in tax revenue, making it the state’s second-largest tax revenue contributor.
Wyoming's constitution, unlike many other state constitutions, prohibits the state from developing a curriculum and choosing textbooks. Local school boards decide their own curriculum and use of books. Wyoming has a dozen higher education institutions, but the only four-year schools are the University of Wyoming in Laramie, University of Phoenix in Cheyenne and Wyoming Catholic College in Lander. Strikingly, Wyoming ranks first in the nation for high school educational attainment, with 92 percent of residents holding high school diplomas. Approximately 24 percent of residents are college graduates.