Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed
Though we have chosen a woman’s name, this population is comprised of households with men and women alike, and includes children and seniors.
United Way is committed to ensuring that our communities are viable places to live and work. To do that, we promote current research, community dialogue, and data-driven policy solutions. These elements form the basis of one of United Way’s broadest and fastest-growing initiatives – the ALICE Project.
ALICE was coined by United Way in 2009 after a pilot research project looked at the low-income population in affluent Morris County, one of the five founding communities which merged in 2011 to become United Way of Northern New Jersey. The original study focused primarily on data from 2007, largely before the effects of the economic downturn, known as the Great Recession, were widespread.
The value of this research was immediately evident: ALICE became a part of the common vernacular in Morris County, helping define a need and a focus for United Way’s work. ALICE also began to appear in many grant applications, in the media, and in public forums discussing need in this “wealthy” community. It quickly became clear that ALICE extended far beyond the borders of Morris County. In 2011 United Way commissioned a second ALICE study looking at all counties in New Jersey. That Report relied primarily on data collected in 2007 and 2010, measuring the impact of the Great Recession and offering a broader illustration of the challenges ALICE households face.
The Report’s findings were stark: fully 30 percent of New Jersey households earned too little to provide basic necessities, and more than half the state’s jobs paid less than $20 an hour.
With the forecast for low-wage jobs to continue to dominate the job market, the reality is that ALICE will continue to play an integral role in our communities for the foreseeable future. That is why ALICE has become a central part of all aspects of United Way’s work.
Now the ALICE Project has expanded to five additional states, with ALICE Reports being released in California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Michigan and New Jersey. The baseline information established in New Jersey’s 2012 study allows these new Reports to compare our progress as the country’s economic conditions continue to change and, in some cases, improve.
We challenge stakeholders in every state to consider the ALICE Reports and their measures as an opportunity for a new dialogue around how to make our communities viable places to live and work. As more and more states embrace ALICE, our hope is that this Report and its companions can serve as a model for the nation.