ALICE Report Sharpens Approach to Helping Working Poor in State


ALICE Report Sharpens Approach to Helping Working Poor in State

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the state.

ALICE households contribute to the Arkansas economy as wage earners by spending and paying taxes, sometimes working two or more jobs. Yet they don’t earn enough to afford basic necessities or save for the future.

Challenges for these Arkansans include low wages, depleted or non-existent savings and increasing costs of basic goods and services.

As part of the national nonprofit United for ALICE, the ALICE Report for Arkansas was released in 2020 to provide high-quality, research-based information about who is struggling in the state’s communities in order to equip communities with information to create innovative solutions.

Sponsored by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Entergy Arkansas, the report was supported by the Equity Research Advisory Council, Arkansas Association of United Ways and the National ALICE Advisory Council. To produce the ALICE Report for Arkansas, a team of researchers collaborated with a Research Advisory Committee, composed of 17 representatives from across Arkansas, who advised and contributed to the report.

The resulting coalition of nonprofits from around Arkansas has 24 members from 14 organizations. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation’s role was to create a space to bring together these groups to use the ALICE data in identifying gaps in the current systems for education, health care, housing and family economic security.

According to the Arkansas report, between 2007 and 2017, the number of ALICE households and those below the Federal Poverty Level unable to afford basic needs increased by 20%, a situation only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Members of the coalition independently determine how they will tackle these issues and the foundation has encouraged participating organizations to consider the challenges faced by ALICE families in Arkansas as they develop advocacy agendas.

The initial, in-person meeting took place in spring of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, the coalition met several times by Zoom to determine how the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation could best assist the members, providing resources and technical assistance.

According to the Arkansas report, between 2007 and 2017, the number of ALICE households and those below the Federal Poverty Level unable to afford basic needs increased by 20%, a situation only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Service industry employees, delivery drivers, janitors and home health care workers provide essential services for their communities, then go home and struggle to pay bills and make difficult decisions, perhaps having to choose between making a payment and buying medicine for a child.

Public and private assistance provided support to many households living in poverty or earning slightly above the Federal Poverty Level, but it provides significantly less support to ALICE households whose incomes are above eligibility levels. Spending on health care and health insurance was higher than other budget areas and large gaps remained in assistance, especially in housing, transportation and childcare.

United for ALICE sets out to increase opportunities, reduce barriers and support the upward mobility of these Arkansans.

Working through statewide United Ways, United for ALICE develops tools to measure the challenges faced by ALICE households. These tools allow communities to move beyond stereotypes and judgments of “the poor” to encourage the use of data that informs solutions for ALICE households.

Entities can use the data to better target giving opportunities, devise grant and aid programs and other forms of assistance to help ALICE employees break the cycle of debt and find their way toward financial independence to meet the needs of all family members.


ALICE by The Numbers

ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — is a measure of households above the Federal Poverty Level but below the cost of household basics. United for ALICE research extends to the state and county level for household incomes and costs to illustrate mismatches between low-paying jobs and what is required for financial survival.

$46,812
Arkansas’ average basic household expenses
(2 adults, 1 infant, 1 preschooler)

$18,240
Arkansas’ average basic household expenses for a single adult

$24,600
Federal Poverty Level for a family of four

$12,060
Federal Poverty Level for an individual adult

58%
U.S. households above the ALICE threshold

29%
ALICE households in the U.S.

13%
U.S. households below the Federal Poverty Level

45%
Pulaski County households above the ALICE threshold

29%
ALICE households in Pulaski County

19%
Pulaski County households below the Federal Poverty Level

41%
Arkansas families that were ALICE families

21
States with ALICE reports

32%
Increase in Arkansas’ Household Survival Budget for a family

2.4 to 1
Projected ratio of working adults to retirees by 2050

Sources: ALICE Threshold 2017 and 2018, American Community Survey 2017 and 2018


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