You will see in my Wednesday column a reference to, and brief explanation of, ALICE, a new and better way to measure financial hardship in America. ALICE stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.” It’s the creation of United Way in its effort to give the nation a more precise reality check because the federal government’s poverty rate just doesn’t tell the whole story. For the last decade, United Way has been looking — state by state and even county by county — at what we have generally called the “working poor,” people who are employed, but who still do not earn enough to support their families. They are the heads of ALICE households.
When you look at ALICE data, you get a better appreciation of where lower-income Americans are today. It broadens your understanding of what it takes to get by in this country, region by region (the cost of the basics: food, housing, health care, child care, taxes, etc.) and the gap between the cost of living and the amount of money people are able to earn. Even in Maryland, listed some years as the wealthiest state in the union, the ALICE households made up nearly 40% of all households in 2018, according to United Way. More have likely been added during the pandemic.
The number of ALICE households in the U.S. explains, in large part, why the Biden-Harris American Rescue Plan is so popular, even at a time of stark political division. Here’s a link to today’s column.