Meet ALICE

ALICE represents the men and women in Connecticut’s households of all ages and races who get up each day to go to work, but who aren’t sure if they’ll be able to make ends meet. ALICE is our co-workers, friends, and neighbors. ALICE does essential work that we depend on, and contributes to our community’s well-being.

ALICE: A STUDY OF THE MANY HARD WORKING, LOW-INCOME PEOPLE IN CONNECTICUT
In the fall of 2014, Connecticut United Ways released the first statewide ALICE Report, a data-driven, comprehensive research project that quantifies the situation confronting many low-income working families across our state – in our urban, suburban and rural communities. The initial ALICE reported aimed to “put a face” on working families in Connecticut. The 2014 ALICE Report served as a call to action for Connecticut United Ways as it revealed that that the number of Connecticut households unable to afford life’s basic necessities far exceeds the official federal poverty statistics. This demographic is known as ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

The recently released 2016 ALICE Update Report focuses on what has changed for ALICE households. Unfortunately, more families continue to struggle to make ends meet; the household survival budget continues to increase; and, wages are not keeping up with the cost of living in our state. The ALICE Update reinforces that ALICE is not isolated to an area code, age, gender or ethnicity. Families and individuals living in every town and city across the state are struggling financially and faced with difficult financial decision every day. Despite working hard, ALICE households are not able to afford basic necessities such as the housing, child care, transportation, healthcare and food.

The 2016 ALICE Update Report also identifies new trends that are impacting ALICE in the workplace. Advances in technology are creating new job possibilities for ALICE workers as well as threatening existing jobs. Currently, 5 percent (68,000) of Connecticut workers are employed in the technology sector. The increase in on-demand or project-to-project jobs has given rise to the “gig economy.” While these on-demand positions may create new employment opportunities, they offer ALICE workers limited job security, no benefits, fluctuating hours and unreliable wages.

ALICE’s vulnerability to financial shock is another trend identified in the 2016 ALICE Report. Asset limited is a defining characteristic of ALICE. Thirty-nine percent of households lack the liquid assets necessary to survive a financial shock. This vulnerability means that a medical emergency or unexpected car repair has the potential to cripple an ALICE household.

Click here to download the 2016 ALICE Update Report for Connecticut.

The 2016 ALICE Update Report shines a light on the challenges facing people who play a vital role in preserving our state’s overall social and economic well-being. While it is true that ALICE has existed long before this study, the Report provides a framework that goes beyond the data and demographics that quantify ALICE households, and allows us to meaningfully discuss solutions that make it easier for ALICE to get by and get ahead.

How Many Households are Struggling?

ALICE households earn more than the U.S. poverty level, but less than the ALICE Threshold. Combined, the households in poverty and ALICE households reveal the true size of the population struggling to afford basic needs. Below are the percentages of households below the federal poverty level, ALICE households, and all households below the ALICE Threshold in the state as a whole:

Statewide
Poverty
11%
ALICE
27%
38% Below ALICE Threshold

The ALICE Report goes beyond existing measures of poverty to reveal how financial hardship affects people we know and depend on in every community. There are hundreds of thousands of ALICE households in Connecticut – households with income above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but below a basic cost-of-living threshold. To see how many households are struggling throughout the region, just click on a town in the map below.


Shining a Light on a Hidden Population

Federal poverty definitions do not account for all of the hard-working people who face challenges making ends meet. The ALICE Report uses a new measure called the ALICE Threshold, to identify the true size of the population of people in Connecticut who do important work in our community and yet struggle to get by.

The table below includes municipalities with more than 30% of their population living in ALICE. By hovering your cursor over each town, you can see the percentage of poverty households in each municipality, as well as the percentage of ALICE households.

What Does It Cost to Afford the Basic Necessities?

The Household Survival Budget is a tool used to assess financial hardship for ALICE. It is calculated by using the bare minimum cost option for each of the five basic necessities to develop a monthly budget that covers the essentials plus taxes and a 10% miscellaneous contingency.  income_chart

For a family of four to cover all of the costs in the Household Survival Budget, their annual income would need to be more than double the U.S. poverty threshold of $23,850. Even with one of the highest median hourly wages in the country, there are still many jobs in Connecticut that pay less than $20/hour ($40,000/year if full time). The table to the right shows that:

  • 49% of jobs paid less than $20 per hour with two-thirds paying less than $15 per hour
  • 37% of jobs paid between $20 and $40 per hour
  • 11% of jobs paid between $40 and $60 per hour

ALICE does essential work in our community – such as child care, health care, security, and retail services – yet often makes less than what it costs to get by.

Average Household Survival Budget in Connecticut
Single Adult Family of Four*
Housing $776 $1,156
Child Care $1,629
Food $202 $612
Transportation $332 $661
Health Care $143 $573
Miscellaneous $172 $536
Taxes $236 $732
Monthly Total $1,888 $5,899
ANNUAL Total $22,656 $70,788
Hourly Wage $11.33 $35.39

*A Family of four is defined as two adults, one toddler and one infant

Click HERE to view additional ALICE Household Survival and Stability Budgets adjusted for each county in Connecticut and broken down into various household types.

ALICE in Connecticut (animated slideshow)
American Winter (film clip)

How are Connecticut United Ways Helping ALICE and Strengthening Communities?

Shining a light on ALICE has served as a call to action for Connecticut’s United Ways. Our United Ways continue to invest in programs and services and provide access to services that will help ALICE households overcome obstacles.

Child Care 
Child care is the most expensive item for families in the ALICE Household Survival Budget. Last year, United Ways in Connecticut invested more than $8.5 million in child care and early learning, increasing the availability of affordable child care and quality child care.

Housing
Housing often consumes more than 30% of an ALICE household’s budget. Last year, United Ways in Connecticut invested more than $1.3 million in housing and homeless prevention work.

Strides Towards Financial Security
Connecticut United Ways invested more than $1.5 million in financial stability work that helps families manage their budgets, build assets, and secure available tax credits (such as the Earned Income Tax Credit). Earned Income Tax Credits along with other credits from United Way-supported Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites returned nearly $40 million to low-income working families at no cost to the tax filer.

Access to Services 
United Way 2-1-1 helps ALICE by connecting people with financial supports, housing resources, quality child care, and assistance with basic needs. United Way 2-1-1 is Connecticut’s 24/7 access to a range of health and human services. Last year (2015), 2-1-1 responded to 353,936 service requests from Connecticut residents. The top three requests were for help with family supports, housing and utilities.

 

Contact your local United Way to find out about volunteer opportunities to help ALICE households or give to United Way’s Community Impact to support ALICE families in your community. GIVE. ADVOCATE. VOLUNTEER.

ABOUT THE ALICE PROJECT
In 2014 Connecticut joined with five other states (California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, and New Jersey) to release their first statewide ALICE Report. Upon the release of the 2016 ALICE Update Report, 15 states had joined the ALICE movement and were working towards releasing ALICE Reports in their respective states. The Connecticut ALICE Report’s are sponsored by the sixteen Connecticut United Ways.