Sorry, this is not a reference to Alice in Wonderland. No March Hare, Hatter, or King and Queen of Hearts. And no happy ending.
It is a study of economic reality. A sad story at that.
ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. It highlights the plight of those that work at low-paying jobs, have little or no savings, and are one emergency from falling into poverty. This could be one illness, major car repair, job loss (even for a short term) or natural disaster.
The ALICE Report is the considered to be the most comprehensive depiction of financial need in the state. It uses data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census. Based on present-day income and expenses, the report measures how many Louisiana workers struggle financially and why.
The Louisiana Association of United Ways in conjunction with Louisiana United Ways released the original ALICE Report in 2014. A 2018 update was recently released.
The update shows that 48% of Louisiana households struggle to afford basic necessities and live below the ALICE Threshold. The breakdown is 19% poverty and 29% ALICE. Louisiana’s percentage of ALICE households puts it at the third highest percentage of all 50 states.
The federal poverty level for a single household is $11,800. ALICE sets the single household survival budget at $19,548.
The average household survival budget, calculated by ALICE, for a family of four is $53,998. The federally recognized family poverty level is $24,300.
In East Baton Rouge parish, 47% of the households were under the ALICE threshold. Inside the Baton Rouge city limits, the number of 57%..
In the southeast Louisiana, the percent of ALICE households is 47%. This area includes the parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington.
In the 10 parish northwest Louisiana area, 51% of households struggle to afford basic necessities. The breakdown is 23% poverty and 28% ALICE. The parishes included are Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, De Soto, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, Webster, and Winn.
Many factors contribute to the state’s ALICE numbers. These include poor education levels, large numbers of single family households, and low-paying jobs.
Across the board wages of many workers are not keeping pace with the rising cost of necessities. Additionally, the increase in contract and on-demand jobs result in less financial stability and employee benefits, especially health care.
Increased child care costs are another factor. ALICE lists the monthly expense for 2 children in licensed and accredited facilities to be almost $1 thousand per month.
When parents cannot work due to limited or inaccessible child care the consequences are two-fold. The child may not gain early-learning skills necessary for success in Kindergarten and beyond. Additionally, a parent must forgo work, which limits earning potential.
ALICE households are forced to make difficult economic choices. These include skipping preventive health care, accredited child care, quality food and/or car insurance. These “savings” threaten their health, safety and future. Ultimately, these costs are high for both the ALICE households and the wider community.
IN SUMMARY, THE POVERTY RATE IS 23% IN NW LOUISIANA. 28% OF THE NW LA POPULATION LIVES PAY CHECK TO PAY CHECK WITH NO RESERVES. THE COMBINED ALICE TOTAL IS 51%.
(This article was published in The Inquisitor on Friday, January 25, 2019)