ALICE IN CONNECTICUT: A FINANCIAL HARDSHIP STUDY
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 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 2020 ALICE Report, Connecticut United Ways 4th ALICE Report, exposes the current economic vulnerability of many Connecticut residents, who, in addition to dealing with longstanding financial challenges, are now, because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, also struggling with furloughs, job losses, and an inability to pay bills and provide for their families.
The 2020 ALICE Report reinforces that families and individuals living in every town and city across the state are struggling financially and faced with difficult financial decisions every day. In fact 148 of Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities, at least 1 in 5 households are below the ALICE Threshold. Despite working hard, these households are not able to afford basic needs, such as housing, child care, technology, transportation, healthcare and food.
The 2020 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. Trends highlighted include:
- A growing number of households live on the edge of the ALICE Threshold. In Connecticut, 13% of households were on the cusp of the ALICE Threshold, with earnings just above or below it.
- Differences in financial security by age, race and ethnicity persist, creating challenges for ALICE families.
- Worker vulnerability is increasing while wages stagnate in ALICE jobs. Three trends that expose ALICE workers to greater risk:
- growth in the number of low-wage jobs,
- minimal increases in wages, and
- more fluctuations in job hours, schedules, and benefits that make it harder to budget and plan due to the growth in the “gig” economy and on-demand employment that shifts more financial risk to workers and ALICE households.
- Many jobs will require an increasing ability to incorporate new technologies, work with data and make data-based decisions which means that ALICE workers need more access to upskilling, on-the-job training and work based training opportunities, consistent with the direction the Governor’s Workforce Council is taking.
New data in the 2020 ALICE Report also revealed that:
- Black and Hispanic households have a disproportionately high percentage of families below the ALICE Threshold.
- 57% of Black households and 63% of Hispanic Households in Connecticut live below the ALICE Threshold.
- 55% of jobs pay more than $20 per hour yet the majority of the top occupations in terms of number of jobs are not keeping up with the cost of living in Connecticut.
- Only two of the top 20 occupations (in terms of number of jobs) pays enough to support the ALICE household survival budget.
- 52% of workers in Connecticut are paid hourly.
- These workers are more likely to have fluctuations in income with frequent schedule changes and variation in the number of hours available for work each week/month.
- Workers paid hourly are also less likely to receive benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, family leave, or retirement benefits.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.
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 six basic necessities to develop a monthly budget that covers the essentials plus taxes and a 10% miscellaneous contingency.
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.
- 9% of jobs pay between $40/hr and $60/hr.
- 5% of jobs pay between $60/hr and $80/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.
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