Facing tough choices

Thursday, September 6, 2018

ALICE 2018

Contributor: Nanci Micke, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at United Way Fox Cities

Do I get a payday loan to get the kids ready for school? Do I pay the utilities or pay rent? Do I buy medications or put dinner on the table? These are the questions that 38 percent of people living in Wisconsin ask themselves every day.

On August 28, United Way of Wisconsin in conjunction with United Ways across the state released the refreshed ALICE report. Wisconsin’s ALICE report provides the state’s most comprehensive look to-date at the distinct portion of the population that is working full-time but struggling to survive.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE households have income above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but struggle to afford basic household necessities. This report focuses on how Wisconsin residents fared post-recession, from 2010 to 2016. While the overall economic climate has improved since 2010, the number of ALICE and poverty–level households rose to 37.5 percent of all Wisconsin households by 2016.

Key points from the ALICE report:

  • At least 51 percent of Wisconsin households do not have enough money saved to cover expenses for three months, let alone to save for emergencies or future use. 
  • 62 percent of Wisconsin jobs pay less than $20 an hour, making it tough to afford the annual income needed for a yearly household survival budget. (The survival budget is $19,848 for a single adult and $61,620 for a four-person family.)
  • Nearly one-third of Wisconsin families with children have income below the ALICE Threshold.
  • The cost of household basics including housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology, and taxes increased by 24 percent for a single adult and 18 percent for a family of four from 2010 to 2016. The rate of inflation was 9 percent during that time. National median earnings increased by 11 percent, compared to a 14 percent increase in Wisconsin.

United Way has developed the ALICE report to have a researched-based model to fully understand and best respond to the needs of our communities. The ALICE methodology was conceived to develop real-time data on income and expenses, establishing a more comprehensive analysis of the state of financial instability in our communities. We need to understand the barriers that prevent residents from achieving their potential and financial stability – not just the end result.

Learn more about ALICE on our website.

The ALICE Study is sponsored in Wisconsin by Thrivent Financial Foundation and U.S. Venture.