The Indiana Association of United Ways (IAUW) has released their report from the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) research project finding that 37% of Indiana households “struggle with basic necessities.” As stated by the IAUW, “ALICE represents 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.”
The ALICE Threshold is designed to account for those individuals who are above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but are receiving income under certain sustainable living benchmarks. By introducing this new vocabulary, the United Way is attempting to discuss economic equality issues with increased transparency and clarity.
Within Allen County, the report found 57% of Wayne Township households fell beneath the ALICE Threshold while only 12% of Eel River and Aboite Townships fell beneath the Threshold. Economic conditions across the county including Housing Affordability, Job Opportunities, and Community Support were all classified as “Fair” according to an “Economic Viability Dashboard.”
Commissioned by United Ways in six states including California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, and New Jersey, research for the ALICE project was conducted by the Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.
Individuals living at and below the ALICE Threshold have often been referred to as “Working Poor” or, in more academic terms, “the lowest income quintiles.” According to the report, the FPL has not undergone significant revisions since 1974. This lack of perspective is further exasperated in that it is applied across the United States without regard for geographic differences in cost of living. ALICE is an opportunity to rethink how we account for economic insecurities within our, counties, states, and nation.
The ALICE report and methodology originated in a 2009 research project conducted in Morris County New Jersey. The report was conducted again in 2011 to analyze the impact of the Great Recession on all counties in New Jersey. By comparing census and income data to an area specific “Household Survival Budget” the United Way of Northern New Jersey was able to demonstrate and discuss financial insecurity in communities considered to be wealthy.
Now applied to Indiana and the aforementioned states, the report paints a more diverse version of economic instability. Utilizing information from the U.S. Census, Internal Revenue Service and Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the United Way finds that 37% of Indiana households are unable to meet the demands of the Household Survival Budget. This budget accounts for categories such as Housing, Child Care, Food, Transportation, Health Care, and a Miscellaneous category which consists of 10% of the total of the other categories in order to cover overruns.
It appears that of particular financial burden to individuals within the ALICE Threshold in Indiana are Housing and Transportation expenses. In fact most households in Indiana suffer from the lack of access to affordable public transportation. This becomes even more problematic when taking into consideration that the average cost of purchasing, maintaining, and fueling a car is “more than ten times as high as…public transport.” Over half of Indiana households within the ALICE Threshold that rent are unable to access rental properties they can afford. Even ALICE households which are able to afford mortgages are typically incapable of affording down payments.
The United Way suggests that as low wage jobs continue to form a large portion of the work force, ALICE will become an increasingly integral designation for those seeking to assist the economically disadvantage. In what ways can ALICE affect your organization?
You can find links to the Indiana ALICE Report as well as the reports from other states at the United Way Alice Website.