UNITED FOR ALICE
This ALICE Report provides the first look at the extent of financial hardship in Louisiana using ALICE metrics since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The pandemic has disrupted longstanding patterns in how and where people live, work, study, save, and spend their time. And the story of ALICE and the pandemic is still unfolding. In a time of change, United For ALICE remains committed to providing the most up-to-date local data possible on financial hardship in Louisiana and across the U.S.
In 2016, United Way of Southeast Louisiana first shed light on these low-income workers left behind, households we call ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. With the fourth release of the nonpartisan, data-driven report for Louisiana, we continue to evaluate the state of financial hardship across our seven-parish service area, including Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes.
Today, one in two households in our region is unable to afford basic expenses or save for an emergency. The ALICE data is more important now than ever to help United Way and our partners identify the most vulnerable in our communities and direct policies, programming, and resources to assist them throughout the pandemic and the recovery that follows.
Learn more about the United Way ALICE Project at UnitedForALICE.org
The following content contains excerpts from Louisiana’s 2023 ALICE in the Crosscurrents release.
- Key Terms
- Who is ALICE
- Why are There So Many ALICE Households in Louisiana?
- Key Findings
- By the Numbers
- Beyond 2021: Economic Challenges Ahead for ALICE
- How You Can Help
ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — households that earn above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but cannot afford the basic cost of living in their county. Despite struggling to make ends meet, ALICE households often do not qualify for public assistance.
ALICE Threshold: The minimum average income that a household needs to afford housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and a smartphone plan, plus taxes. Calculated for all U.S. states and counties.
Below ALICE Threshold: Includes people in poverty-level and ALICE households combined.
ALICE Household Survival Budget: Calculates the bare minimum cost of the household basics needed to live and work in the modern economy by household composition in every parish.
WHO IS ALICE
ALICE is your neighbor, family member, and friend; your server, office manager, cashier, and child care worker. ALICE works hard in low-wage jobs that care for our loved ones and keep our communities running but don’t pay enough to make ends meet.
There are households below the ALICE Threshold across all demographic groups, but disparities exist due to persistent racism, ageism, gender discrimination, and geographic barriers that limit many families’ access to resources and opportunities for financial stability.
In 2021, one in two households in Southeast Louisiana struggled to get by, unable to afford the basic necessities: health care, housing, food, child care, transportation, taxes, and technology.
Living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings, ALICE families are one major accident, medical bill, or harsh storm away from poverty.
When ALICE households lack adequate income, reducing expenses is a matter of survival. These short-term tradeoffs, like a skipped doctor’s visit or delayed car repair, have long-term consequences for us all.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ALICE HOUSEHOLDS IN LOUISIANA?
While the government’s broad pandemic response was effective in preventing the kind of surge in financial hardship experienced during the Great Recession, ALICE households continue to face challenges from low wages, inflation, natural disasters, and more.
The reality is that of the 1,776,260 households in Louisiana, 902,468 — 51% — had income below the ALICE Threshold of Financial Survival in 2021, the second-highest rate in the U.S. These included both households in poverty and ALICE households.
The crux of the problem is a mismatch between earnings and the cost of basics. For example, 61% of cashiers (one of the most common occupations in Louisiana) were below the ALICE Threshold in 2021. These workers earned a median hourly wage of $9.86 — not even enough to cover the ALICE Household Survival Budget for one worker employed full time ($13.38 per hour), much less for a family with children, even with two adults working (combined wage of $33.14 per hour).
From 2019 to 2021, the cost of basics increased across Louisiana and remained well above the FPL. For a family of four in 2021, the FPL was $26,500 while the ALICE Household Survival Budget was $66,288. Between 2019 and 2021, the average annual costs (excluding taxes) increased 11% for a single adult, 10% for a single senior, and 11% for a family of four. Temporary expansion of tax credits — most notably the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) — helped to mitigate costs for families with children.
⊷ Population: While the number of SELA households living below the ALICE Threshold increased slightly, half of all households – a staggering 262,898 – did not earn enough to afford the basics in 2021.
⊷ Population: Overall, the number of households in predominantly rural parishes decreased across Louisiana, while the number of households in predominantly urban parishes increased. Households in predominantly rural parishes had a higher rate of financial hardship than households in predominantly urban parishes (59% vs. 49%) in 2021.
⊷ Demographics: Racial disparities persist in the rates of financial hardship; 68% of Black and 52% of Hispanic Louisiana households were below the ALICE Threshold in 2021, compared to 42% of white households.
⊷ Age: Between 2019 and 2021, households headed by seniors (age 65+) had the largest increase in the rate of financial hardship, rising from 56% to 59%.
⊷ Households makeup: The percentage of households below the ALICE Threshold remained the same for married-parent households with children (at 21%), single or cohabiting households without children (at 50%), and single-female-headed households with children, notably high 86%.
⊷ Immigration: The parishes with the largest number of immigrants, originating from Honduras, Mexico, and Vietnam, included East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, and Orleans.
⊷ Wages: Of the 20 most common occupations in Louisiana in 2021, 75% paid less than $20 per hour.
⊷ Pandemic Assistance: Tax credits and other pandemic supports mitigated the pandemic’s negative financial impacts. Yet in 2021, a family of four with two adults working full time in two of Louisiana’s most common jobs — retail salesperson and cashier — fell short of affording basics by over $17,000 even with these temporary supports.
⊷ Savings & Assets: Only 29% of households below the ALICE had emergency savings in November 2021, compared to 73% of households above the ALICE Threshold. Additionally, only 35% of households below the ALICE had retirement assets in 2021.
⊷ Warning Signs: The warning signs that the economic situation for households below the ALICE Threshold has worsened since 2021 include sustained high levels of food insufficiency, continued difficulty paying bills, reduced savings, medical debt, and feelings of anxiety and depression.
BY THE NUMBERS IN SELA
While the Federal Poverty Level reports that only 19% of Southeast Louisiana households face financial hardship, an additional 30% qualify as ALICE.
Households Below the ALICE Threshold
Southeast Louisiana, 2021
|Parish||Households||Below ALICE Households|
ALICE and Poverty in Southeast Louisiana Over Time
Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, & Washington parishes
More than 262,800 households – or 49 percent of Southeast Louisiana’s population live below the ALICE threshold.
The 2021 data decreases the number of Southeast Louisiana households living below the ALICE Threshold by two percentage points in large part thanks to pandemic assistance programs. With pandemic assistance waning while significant challenges remain, there are warning signs that the economic situation for households below the ALICE Threshold has worsened since 2021.
What does it cost to afford the basic necessities?
The average ALICE Household Survival Budget in Louisiana was $26,400 for a single adult, $29,316 for a single senior, and $75,720 for a family of four in 2018 — significantly more than the Federal Poverty Level of $12,140 for a single adult and $25,100 for a family of four.
BEYOND 2021: ECONOMIC CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR ALICE
With COVID-19 continuing but pandemic relief benefits expiring, initial data from 2022 suggests that the economic situation has in fact gotten worse for ALICE, which in turn puts the wider economy at risk.
An analysis of recent surveys reveals that households below the ALICE Threshold are still facing food insufficiency, difficulty paying bills, medical debt, reduced savings, and feelings of anxiety and depression.
These challenges were first reported in The Pandemic Divide, and they are updated in the latest report with the most recent data from SHED (through November 2021) and the Household Pulse Survey (through December 2022).
These surveys also provide an alarming look at the breakdown of pandemic experiences by race, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, and disability status. The differences here are even starker than when looking at income alone, giving credence to concerns that the pandemic is exacerbating racial and other inequities across all facets of life.
HOW CAN YOU HELP ALICE?
Poverty is a problem in Southeast Louisiana.
One in two households is either living in poverty or teetering right on the edge. Enter United Way of Southeast Louisiana. A local institution - 100 years in the making – with a strategic plan to address your community’s most pressing needs.
Our Blueprint for Prosperity tackles poverty head-on, taking a holistic approach to addressing its root causes in EACH OF OUR SEVEN parishes. We help communities and nonprofits solve the problems no individual organization can solve alone by working at every level.
Stronger, more equitable communities with
health, education, and financial stability for all.
We’re committed to the idea that it takes all of us. That means your involvement is critical too.
Whether you choose to donate, advocate, or volunteer, we have a plan and the tools to maximize your impact and can show you how your donation makes a difference. Join United Way as we reimagine brighter futures for ALICE and us all.
HELP ALICE TODAY
ADDITIONAL ALICE RESOURCES
- 2023 ALICE FAQs
- United for ALICE Website Tour
- ALICE in Focus Series This series takes this data to a new level, spotlighting the struggles of people in specific ALICE populations. The ALICE in Focus dashboards and research briefs allow you to break down the data on these groups by race/ethnicity, disability status, living arrangements, number of workers in the household, and much more. It's a new lens on specific populations in financial hardship — with a level of detail that can help drive meaningful change.
- ALICE Online Research Center - Visit the online research center at UnitedForALICE.org/Louisiana for more details about ALICE, including:
- Updated ALICE Essentials Index - Track the increase in costs of specific basic necessities included in the ALICE budget and compare them to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI).
- Interactive Maps - Data at the state, parish, municipal, ZIP code, and congressional district levels
- Additional Reports - Explore The ALICE Essentials Index and The Consequences of Insufficient Household Income
- Legislative District Tool - Interactive tool to help policymakers and community stakeholders better understand how many households are actually struggling in their district
- ALICE Wage Tool - Identifies the counties where a certain hourly wage can support the Household Survival Budget for a selected household type
- Demographic Data - Information about ALICE households by age, race/ethnicity, and household type
- Jobs Graphs - Details about where ALICE works
- Parish Profiles - Detailed data about ALICE households in each parish
- Methodology - Overview of the sources and calculations used in the ALICE research
- More About United for ALICE - See our partners, press coverage, learning communities, etc.