The ALICE Report

United Way ALICE Report - UPDATED

  • 2020 Regional Report 
  • Updated 2020 Full Report
  • ALICE Online Research Center - Visit the online research center at UnitedForALICE.org/Louisiana for more details about ALICE, including:
    • Interactive Maps - Data at the state, parish, municipal, ZIP code, and congressional district levels
    • Research Advisory Committee - Learn about the members and role of this critical group
    • Additional Reports - Explore The ALICE Essentials Index and The Consequences of Insufficient Household Income 
    • Demographic Data - Information about ALICE households by age, race/ethnicity, and household type
    • Data Spreadsheet - Download the ALICE data
    • 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. 

UNITED WAY ALICE PROJECT


ALICE

The release of this ALICE Report for Louisiana comes during an unprecedented crisis — the COVID-19 pandemic. While our world changed significantly in March 2020 with the impact of this global, dual health and economic crisis, ALICE remains central to the story in every U.S. county/parish and state. The pandemic has exposed exactly the issues of economic fragility and widespread hardship that United For ALICE and the ALICE data work to reveal.

In 2016, United Way of Southeast Louisiana first shed light on the often overlooked households in our communities who work hard but struggle to make ends meet, households we call ALICE® — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. With the third release of the report for Louisiana, we continue to evaluate the state of financial hardship across our seven-parish service area, which includes Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes.

Today, more than 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 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

 

OVERVIEW


 

Meet ALICE: Your neighbor, family member, and friend


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 keep our communities running, but don’t pay enough to make ends meet.

voicesALICE

Click here to learn more about their stories.

In 2018, more than 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.

Learn more about the consequences of ALICE

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COVID-19 and ALICE


According to the latest ALICE Report, COVID-19 hit Southeast Louisiana hard because so many households in our region were struggling before the crisis. The virus amplified issues we are addressing like disparities in health, education, and financial stability. That's why nonprofit partners and government officials turn to United Way for help.

The economic effects of COVID-19 will have a significant, lasting impact on ALICE families who cannot afford to miss work or access health care if they get sick. To better understand the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on ALICE households and our entire community, United Way of Southeast Louisiana joined the Louisiana Association of United Ways to conduct a statewide COVID-19 survey in May 2020. Results from the survey can be viewed here.

We are committed to using this data to inform our relief and recovery efforts, including state and national advocacy. We are also continuing work to build on this initial data and gain a deeper understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting communities of color.

This crisis is quickly evolving. To stay abreast of the impact of COVID-19 on ALICE households and their communities, visit UnitedForALICE.org/COVID19 for updates.

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KEY FINDINGS


The United Way ALICE Report update for Louisiana advances information by two years, updating data sources from the years 2016 to 2018.

Key Findings

Learn more about the United Way ALICE Report’s methodology

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BY THE NUMBERS


While the Federal Poverty Level reports that only 18 percent of Southeast Louisiana households face financial hardship, an additional 34 percent qualify as ALICE.

Households Below the ALICE Threshold in Southeast Louisiana, 2018

ParishPercentBelowALICE

ALICE and Poverty in Southeast Louisiana Over Time

Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, & Washington parishes

PovertyInSELAOverTime

More than 262,500 households – or 52 percent of Southeast Louisiana’s population live below the ALICE threshold. ALICE households earn above the poverty level but below the Household Survival Budget. Households living under the ALICE threshold include both ALICE and households in poverty.

The 2018 data increases the number of Southeast Louisiana ALICE households by three percentage points. Since 2010, SELA households below the ALICE threshold has increased from 46 percent to 52 percent, or by almost 43,000 households. 

What does it cost to afford the basic necessities?

The Household Survival Budget estimates the actual bare-minimum costs of basic necessities in Louisiana, adjusted for different parishes and household types.

The average ALICE Household Survival Budget in Southeast 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.

Household Survival Budget, 2018

Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, & Washington parishes

Household Survival Budget

The ALICE Household Survival Budget can also be customized for different household sizes by using the numbers below. 

HSBs Addition

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WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ALICE HOUSEHOLDS IN LOUISIANA?


ALICE households are as diverse as the general population, composed of people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities, living in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

Despite overall improvement in the economy, ALICE households continue to face challenges from low wages, reduced work hours, depleted savings, and increasing costs.

This Report provides new data and tools that explain the persistent level of hardship faced by ALICE households, revealing aspects of the Louisiana economy not tracked by traditional economic measures. The Report highlights two critical trends:

The basic cost of living outpaced wages.
  • From 2007 to 2018, the cost of household essentials (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology) increased faster than the cost of other goods and services.
  • The ALICE Essentials Index, a new tool that measures change over time in the cost of essentials, increased at an average rate of 3.4% annually nationwide over the past decade, while the official rate of inflation was 1.8%.
Changes in the workforce – Low-wage jobs dominate the local economy.
  • By 2018, a near-record-low number of people were reported to be unemployed, but that low unemployment concealed three trends that expose ALICE workers to greater risk: growth in the number of low-wage jobs, minimal increases in wages, and more fluctuations in job hours, schedules, and benefits that make it harder to budget and plan.
  • In 2018: A record number of Louisiana workers — 55% — were paid by the hour, and 64% of the state’s jobs paid less than $20 per hour.

The number of ALICE households is increasing in Louisiana as a result of rising costs, stagnant wages, and the impacts of COVID-19. There are more ALICE households than households in poverty, and the number of ALICE households is increasing at a faster rate. The FPL, with its minimal and uniform national estimate of the cost of living, far underestimates the number of households that cannot afford to live and work in the modern economy. In Southeast Louisiana, the percentage of households that were ALICE rose from 29% in 2010 to 34% in 2018. By contrast, those in poverty remained at around 18% throughout the period.

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BENEFITS OF MOVING TOWARD EQUITY


The strength of the Louisiana economy is inextricably tied to the financial stability of its residents. The more people who participate in a state’s economy, the stronger it will be. In 2018, when the national economy was often described as “strong,” the reality was that 891,349 Louisiana households — over half of all households in the state — struggled to support themselves. If all households earned enough to meet their basic needs, not only would each family’s hardship be eased, but the Louisiana economy would also benefit substantially. This is true in times of economic growth, and it becomes even more important during a period of crisis and recovery.

To better understand the extent to which financial hardship is a drain on a state’s economy, this following figure provides an estimate of the benefits of raising the income of all households to the ALICE Threshold. While lifting family income would be an enormous undertaking, the statewide benefits of doing so make a compelling case for pointing both policy and investment toward that goal.

EconomicBenefitsOfMovingTowardEquity

In addition to the economic benefits to the state if all households had income above the ALICE Threshold, there would be a significant number of positive changes for families and their communities. 

The 2019 companion Report, The Consequences of Insufficient Income, outlines the tough choices ALICE and poverty-level families make when they do not have enough income to afford basic necessities, and how those decisions affect their broader communities.

Learn more about the benefits of moving toward equity in the full and regional ALICE reports. 

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WHAT IS UNITED WAY OF SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA DOING TO HELP?


For 95 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana has been on the front lines of community problems, both everyday problems and crises, across our seven-parish service area. 

Our work is laser-focused on eradicating poverty locally by supporting ALICE households to ensure they are able to afford basic needs – like housing, food, transportation, child care, and health care – and save for an emergency. 

And we have a plan to get it done together. Our Blueprint for Prosperity gives us a roadmap today as we lead immediate COVID-19 relief efforts and shift toward long-term recovery to stabilize and strengthen our community. 

 

View our COVID-19 Response and Recovery here and visit our website at UnitedWaySELA.org/COVID19 for updates. 

Make a gift today to join our fight for ALICE.

 

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NEW REPORT FEATURES


In the report: Every two years, United For ALICE undertakes a full review of the ALICE Methodology to ensure that the ALICE measures are transparent, replicable, and current in order to accurately reflect how much income families need to live and work in the modern economy. In 2019, more than 40 external experts — drawn from the Research Advisory Committees across our United For ALICE partner states — participated in the review process. 

This Report includes the following improvements:

More local variation: The ALICE budgets for housing, food, transportation, health care, and taxes incorporate more local data. For housing, we differentiate parishes within Metropolitan Statistical Areas using American Community Survey gross rent estimates. For food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Thrifty Food Plan is adjusted at the parish level using Feeding America’s cost-of-meal data. For transportation, auto insurance is added to new miles- traveled data (discussed in the next paragraph) to reflect different driving costs by state. For health care, out-of- pocket costs are provided by census region. And taxes now systematically include local income tax, using data from the Tax Foundation.

Better reflection of household composition: Transportation and health care budgets now better reflect costs for different household members. The transportation budget for driving a car uses the Federal Highway Administration’s miles-traveled data, sorted by age and gender, and AAA’s cost-per-mile for a small or medium-sized car. The health care budget reflects employer-sponsored health insurance (the most common form in 2018, when it covered 49% of Americans1), using the employee’s contribution, plus out-of-pocket expenditures by age and income, from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

More variations by household size: The median household size in the U.S. is three people for households headed by a person under age 65 and two people for households headed by seniors (65+).2 Reflecting this reality, the Household Survival Budgets are presented in new variations, including a Senior Survival Budget. The website provides data to create budgets for households with any combination of adults and children. The ALICE Threshold has also been adjusted to incorporate the most common modern household compositions. These new budget variations are included in the Parish Profile and Household Budget pages on UnitedForALICE.org/Louisiana.

New ALICE measures:

  • The Senior Survival Budget more accurately represents household costs for people age 65 and over. Housing and technology remain constant; however, some costs are lower — transportation, food, and health insurance premiums (due to Medicare) — while others are higher, especially out-of-pocket health costs. Because over 90% of seniors have at least one chronic condition, the Senior Survival Budget includes the additional cost of treating the average of the five most common chronic diseases.
  • The ALICE Essentials Index is a standardized measure of the change over time in the costs of essential household goods and services, calculated for both urban and rural areas. It can be used as a companion to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index, which covers all goods and services that families at all income levels buy regularly.

Data Notes: The data are estimates; some are geographic averages, others are one- or five-year averages depending on population size. Change-over-time ranges start with 2007, before the Great Recession, then measure change every two years from 2010 to 2018. Parish-level data remains the primary focus, as state averages mask significant differences between parishes. For example, the share of households below the ALICE Threshold in Louisiana ranges from 38% in Ascension Parish to 72% in Tensas Parish. Many percentages are rounded to whole numbers, sometimes resulting in percentages totaling 99% or 101%.

The methodological improvements included in this Report have been applied to previous years to allow for accurate year-over-year comparisons. This means that some numbers and percentages at the state and parish level will not match those reported in previous ALICE Reports for Louisiana.

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