United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut

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 2018 ALICE Report on financial hardship takes a deeper look at the growing financial challenges that require more and more working and middle class families to make tough choices every day as they manage their household budget. 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 2018 ALICE Report 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 2018 ALICE Update Report also identifies new trends that are impacting ALICE in the workplace and ALICE’s ability to build assets and achieve financial security.

  • While 55% of jobs pay more than $20 per hour the majority of the top occupations in terms of number of jobs are not keeping up with the cost of living in Connecticut.
    • Only one of the top 20 occupations (in terms of number of jobs) pays enough to support the ALICE household survival budget.
  • The increase in on-demand or project-to-project jobs has given rise to the “gig economy”.
    • The “gig economy” presents new employment possibilities however, these position have limited jobs security, few or no benefits, fluctuating hours and unreliable wages.
  • Shifting to a contingent workforce puts more financial risk on workers
    • It is difficult for ALICE households to pay bills regularly, make short-term family plans (e.g., child care), or make long-term financial plans, such as qualifying for a mortgage when inconsistent work schedules result in unexpected gains or losses in work hours and income volatility.
  • Asset limited is a defining characteristic of ALICE.
    • More than 46% of Connecticut households do not have enough money saved to cover expenses for three months in the case of an emergency such as an illness or the loss of a job.
    • Nationally, 40% of American’s cannot afford a $400 emergency without borrowing money or selling something.
    • This vulnerability means that a medical emergency or unexpected change in income can send an ALICE Household spiraling into poverty
  • Advances in technology will replace some existing jobs as well as create new employment opportunities for ALICE.
    • Almost two-thirds (61%) of jobs in the top-20 fastest growing occupations could be replaced by technology in the next two decades.
    • Jobs that are predicted to emerge in the next 20 to 30 will most often require strong technology skills. Teaching these skills must be a priority throughout our education systems.

Click here to download the 2018 ALICE Update Report for Connecticut.

The 2018 ALICE 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:

United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut service area
Poverty
12%
ALICE
29%
41% Below ALICE Threshold
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.

All of the towns in the region served by United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut (40 town region) are listed in the chart below, in order of the percentage of households below the ALICE Threshold. 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. As you will see, ALICE lives in every community.

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.

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 $24,300. 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:

  • 45% of jobs pay less than $20 per hour with two-thirds of those paying less than $15/hr.
  • 39% of jobs pay between $20/hr and $40/hr.
  • 11% of jobs pay between $40/hr and $60/hr.

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.

Household Survival Budget in Connecticut
Connecticut Average Single Adult Family of Four* UW CNCT Service Area Average Single Adult Family of Four*
Housing $803 $1,213 Housing $608-$758 $935-$1,210
Child Care $1,691 Child Care $1,575-$1,707
Food $182 $603 Food $182 $603
Transportation $308 $613 Transportation $341 $682
Health Care $213 $792 Health Care $213 $792
Technology $55 $75 Technology $55 $75
Miscellaneous $187 $509 Miscellaneous $165-$185 $542-$598
Taxes $308 $891 Taxes $247-$303 $761-$915
Monthly Total $2,056 $6,486 Monthly Total $1,811-$2,037 $5,965-$6,582
ANNUAL Total $24,672 $77,832 ANNUAL Total $21,732-$24,444 $71,580-$78,984
Hourly Wage $12.34 $38.92 Hourly Wage $10.87-$12.22 $35.79-$39.49

*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?

The ALICE Report recommends both short-term and long-term strategies to help ALICE families and strengthen our communities. Connecticut’s United Ways work with our community partners and continue to invest in programs and services that will enable ALICE households to achieve a more secure financial future.

Investing in Programs and Services

Connecticut United Ways invest in housing and homeless prevention, child care and early learning, job training and workforce development and basic needs services so that ALICE families can succeed. Last year, Connecticut United Ways invested more than 40 million dollars in programs serving those in need.

Promoting Financial Security

United Ways support free tax preparation at VITA sites where eligible families can secure valuable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). United Ways also support financial education and budget coaching opportunities and digital savings incentive programs that reward good savings habits, helping ALICE build assets and savings.

Mobilizing Community Partners

United Ways engage with businesses, government agencies, other nonprofits, the faith-based community, civic leaders and anyone who wants to work toward individual and community wide solutions that lead to more financial security for ALICE households.

Connection to Services

United Way 2-1-1 is Connecticut’s 24/7 access to a range of health and human services. Last year (FY18), 2-1-1 responded to 323,544 service requests from Connecticut residents. Housing & shelter, mental health services and employment & income were 2-1-1 CT’s top three requests for service.

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 2018 ALICE Update Report, 18 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.