The ALICE Report: Income Too Low, Housing Costs Too High

by Richard J. Porth 11/18/2014 

In a newly issued report on financial hardship in Connecticut prepared for Connecticut United Ways (and United Ways in five other states), Rutgers University researchers found that 51% of all Connecticut jobs pay less than $20/hour. Compare this to the calculation by the National Low Income Housing Coalition determining that Connecticut renters have to earn more than $23/hour to afford a typical two-bedroom unit without spending more than 30% of their income on housing.

Housing is the single largest – and least flexible – expense in most family budgets. Analysts agree that housing should cost no more than 30-33% of your income. However, many Connecticut families spend as much as 50% of their income on housing, leaving too few dollars for other basic needs. The result – bad options and lots of stress – hurts families and has a ripple effect throughout the community.

United Way coined an acronym for households that struggle to pay for housing and other basic needs: ALICE – Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE represents hard-working families whose earnings are above the federal poverty line but below a basic cost of living threshold established in the report. Over 330,000 Connecticut households live on ALICE wages.

ALICE lives in every Connecticut city and town. ALICE is your childcare worker, the bookkeeper in your office, your auto mechanic and the supermarket checker. ALICE just graduated college or is retired. ALICE is your neighbor who cares for an aging parent or whose adult children moved home.

When housing squeezes ALICE’s budget, difficult choices get made. Families live in unsafe housing. Fast food substitutes for fresh, healthy food. Emergency room treatment replaces cheaper, preventative care. People drive unsafe cars in need of repair or forego prescriptions that can keep them healthy.

United Ways invest in solutions that ease ALICE’s stress, but we invite the entire community to join in discussing the underlying issues preventing ALICE from getting ahead. Download the ALICE Report at and join the conversation.

Cross-posted from the Partnership for Strong Communities blog