United Way Study: 44% of Americans Cannot Make Ends Meet


In October 16, 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances”. The brochure was an honest assessment of the world where it explained that

there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”… There are rich consumers, and there are the rest.

If interested, I pulled out the juicy details of the Plutonomy brochure in this article.

Let’s talk about “the rest” for a moment.

There is a basic belief in America that if you work hard, you can support yourself and your family. Yet, the findings from the state United Way ALICE Reports shows that this is not the case for the 40 percent of households across 13 states.

The Reports also debunk the assumptions and stereotypes that those who cannot support their families are primarily people of color, live in urban areas, are unemployed, or in extreme cases are believed to be poor as the result of a personal or moral failing.

The United Way ALICE Project provides a framework, tools, and language to measure and understand the struggles of the growing number of households in our communities that do not earn enough to afford basic necessities. United Way has called this group ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The Project spans 15 states representing nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population.

ALICE households earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to live and work in the modern economy.

Participating states:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Florida
  3. Idaho
  4. Indiana
  5. Iowa
  6. Louisiana
  7. Maryland
  8. Michigan
  9. New Jersey
  10. New York
  11. Oregon
  12. Washington
  13. Wisconsin

Data from the 13 participating states show that at least 31 percent of households in each state cannot afford the bare minimum to live and work in the modern economy. In some states, the proportion is as high as 44 percent.

These rates are more than double the rate of “poverty,” as defined by the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and clearly demonstrate that an alternative measure is necessary to capture the magnitude of Americans who cannot make ends meet.

The state United Way ALICE Reports calculate the number of households in each county that cannot afford a Household Survival Budget, a basic budget that includes the cost of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care. Through this research, the state Reports have identified millions of Americans whose incomes are above the FPL, but who still cannot afford these five basic needs.

To access reports from all states, as well as additional data and the methodology overview, visit UnitedWayALICE.org.

Thanks for reading,

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