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ALICE

Asset limited income constrained employed

2018 United Way ALICE Report

Across Wisconsin, over a third of households struggle to afford the basic necessities of housing, child care, health care, food, and transportation. 

Despite recent reports of overall improvement in employment and gains in median incomes, the economic recovery in Wisconsin has been uneven. Many families continue to face challenges from low wages, depleted savings, and the increasing cost of basic household goods. The total number of Wisconsin households that cannot afford basic needs increased 5 percent between 2010 and 2016.

This Report also shows what has changed in Wisconsin since the first United Way ALICE Report for Wisconsin was published two years ago. It updates the cost of basic needs in the Household Survival Budget for each county in Wisconsin, and the number of households earning below the amount needed to afford that budget (the ALICE Threshold). The Report delves deeper into county and municipal data and looks at the demographics of ALICE and poverty-level households by race/ethnicity, age, and household type to reveal variations in hardship that are often masked by state averages. Finally, the Report highlights emerging trends that will affect ALICE households in the future.
 
To learn more, read the full report online or visit the ALICE interactive website to see county-level data from throughout Wisconsin. Then, take the challenge and try the ALICE simulator to see some of the tough choices ALICE families make every day. 
 
   

What is ALICE?

The United Way ALICE Project is a nationwide effort to quantify and describe the number of households that are struggling financially.
 
The Project began as a pilot program in New Jersey, and has expanded to include 16 states, which represent nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population. United Way ALICE Reports use standardized measurements to calculate the cost of a bare-bones household budget in each county in each state, and to quantify the number of households that cannot afford even that. It is an alternative measure to the outdated Federal Poverty Level, which grossly underestimates the number of struggling families.

why this work matters

The United Way ALICE Project raises awareness about a huge but hidden segment of our community that is struggling to afford basic necessities. The success of a community is directly related to the financial stability of its members.

Rent or electric bill? Food or prescription drugs? For too many hardworking households, impossible decisions such as these are a way of life. When ALICE is forced to make difficult choices, the entire community faces consequences. The ALICE Project provides a framework and language for stakeholders to reassess public and corporate policies and implement changes that improve the lives of ALICE and their communities.

Alice update

The 2016 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Study of Financial Hardship in Wisconsin characterized 29 percent of Wisconsin households as ALICE. Due to an error in calculating the tax budget line, that number should have been 23 percent. More information can be found here.

Making Tough Choices

Can you survive 30 days? Making Tough Choices is an ALICE simulator, putting you in the shoes of an ALICE household. You'll face obstacles such as affording childcare, finding transportation to work, and putting food on the table. For the next few minutes, you'll experience some of the tough choices that these families have to make every single day and how United Way is doing all that we can to help them along the way. 


 

Who is ALICE? 

You know ALICE.
 
ALICE is among the 42% of Wisconsin households that can’t afford the basics of housing, food, health care, child care, and transportation, despite working. ALICE—which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed—is a way to identify our families, neighbors, and colleagues (men and women) who work hard, earn above the federal poverty level, but don’t earn enough to afford a basic household budget. There are more than 670,000 ALICE households in Wisconsin, more than double the official poverty rate. 

With limited income, ALICE families are forced to make tough choices, such as choosing between quality childcare or paying the rent. This has long-term consequences for ALICE and our communities. The future success of our communities is directly tied to the financial stability of ALICE households.
 
Learn more about what United Way of Racine County is doing to help ALICE and how you can get involved
 

ALICE Report

UPDATE: The 2016 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Study of Financial Hardship in Wisconsin characterized 29 percent of Wisconsin households as ALICE. Due to an error in calculating the tax budget line, that number should have been 23 percent. More information can be found here.

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. 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.


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.
     

Download the Executive Summary
Download the full report
Download the Racine County Summary

Across Wisconsin, over a third of households struggle to afford the basic necessities of housing, child care, health care, food, and transportation.