In the Pacific Northwest, millions of households struggle to afford basic household necessities
Who is ALICE? With the cost of living higher than what most wages pay, ALICE families – an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed -- work hard and earn above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but not enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care. ALICE households include women and men, young and old, urban, suburban, and rural, and of all races and ethnicities, and they live in every county in the Pacific Northwest.
Who is struggling? While the Federal Poverty Level reports show that only 14 percent of Pacific Northwest households face financial hardship, the ALICE Threshold provides a clearer and more updated estimate. The ALICE population in Idaho is 22 percent. Combined with poverty (11 percent), approximately 34 percent of households in Bonneville County struggle to make ends meet financially. Other counties in our region have an even greater percentage who struggle to make ends meet (Clark County, 60%; Fremont and Lemhi counties, 44%; Jefferson County, 37%; Madison County, 63%; Teton County, 38%).
What are the consequences, and what would improve the economic situation for ALICE households?
Consequences: When ALICE households cannot make ends meet, they are forced to make difficult choices such as forgoing health care, accredited child care, healthy food, or car insurance. These “savings” threaten their health, safety, and future – and they reduce productivity and raise insurance premiums and taxes for everyone. The costs are high for both ALICE families and the wider community.
Effective change: While short-term strategies can make conditions less severe, only structural economic changes will significantly improve the prospects for ALICE and enable hardworking households to support themselves. Strengthening the Pacific Northwest economy and meeting ALICE’s challenges are linked: improvement for one would directly benefit the other. The ALICE tools can help policy makers, community leaders, and business leaders to better understand the magnitude and variety of households facing financial hardship, and to create more effective change.
What can we learn from the ALICE Report?
The ALICE population in Idaho is 22 percent. Combined with poverty (11 percent), approximately 34 percent of households in Bonneville County struggle to make ends meet financially. United Way believes in a research-based model in order to fully understand and best respond to the needs of our communities. We wanted to understand the causes of the problems, not just the end results.