In September 2016, United Way of Wisconsin unveiled its first statewide ALICE Report, a data-driven, comprehensive research project upending the conventional view of Wisconsin. The fact is that the number of Wisconsin households who are unable to afford life’s basic necessities far exceeds the official federal poverty statistics. United Way calls this newly revealed demographic ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.
Who is ALICE?
ALICE represents the nearly 960,131 men and women 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 put dinner on the table each night. ALICE is your child care worker, home health aide, store clerk, and office assistant – all workers essential to you and to our community’s success. Before this report, ALICE was a population and community issue without a name or face. While it is true that ALICE has existed long before this study, it was not until the release of this Report that there was any way to discuss the plight of these households, nonetheless quantify them.
There are serious consequences for both ALICE households and their communities when these households cannot afford the basic necesseties. ALICE households are forced to make difficult choices such as skipping preventative health care, healthy food, or car insurance. These “savings” threaten their health, safety, and future - and they reduce Wisconsin’s economic productivity and raise insurance premiums and taxes for everyone. The costs are high for both ALICE families and the wider community.
Core Report Statistics
- By comparing real incomes with real expenses, the United Way ALICE Project reveals this stark reality: 42% of Wisconsin households are living on the edge of financial insecurity.
- In Wisconsin, 42% of households live below the ALICE threshold – about 13% live below the poverty level and another 29% are above poverty but below the basic cost of living.
- ALICE households are working, but struggle to afford the basics of housing, food, health care, child care, and transportation.
- There are nearly 670,922 ALICE households in Wisconsin, more than double the official poverty rate. Together, with those in poverty, there are nearly 960,131 households unable to make ends meet in Wisconsin.
- More than two-thirds of Wisconsin's municipalities have more than 30 percent of households unable to afford life’s basic necessities.
- Despite working and receiving financial supports, ALICE still faces a 21% gap in the income needed to be able to survive and afford the basics in Wisconsin.