How is it possible for a town to exist where the median household income is about $73,000, but the median home price is about $4,000,000? Boring into the 'impossible' math of Aspen, Colorado, Stuber, explores how the middle-class have found a way to live in this super-gentrified town. Interviewing a range of residents, policymakers and officials, Stuber shows that what resolves the impossible math equation between incomes and home values in Aspen, Colorado—the "X-factor" that makes middle-class life possible—is the careful orchestration of diverse class interests within local politics and the community. She explores how this is achieved through a highly regulatory and extractive land use code that provides symbolic and material value to highly affluent investors and part-year residents, as well as less-affluent locals, many of whom benefit from an array of subsidies—including an extensive affordable housing program—that redistribute economic resources in ways that make it possible for middle-class residents there.
Stuber further examines how Latinos, who provide much of the service work in Aspen and who tend to live outside the town, fit into the social geography of one of the most unequal places in the country. Overall, Stuber argues that the Aspen's ability to balance the interests of its diverse class constituencies is not a foregone conclusion; rather, it is the result of efforts by local stakeholders—citizens, government, developers, and vacationers—to preserve the town’s unique feel and value, and "keep Aspen, Aspen" in all its complex dynamics.