Skip Nav

News & Updates

New "Alice" Study Sheds Light On Economic Hardship of Working Families



BLOOMINGTON, IL (March 4, 2020) — At 9:00 am, Wednesday, in the Blue Room of the State Capital in Springfield, United Way of Illinois released a groundbreaking study revealing the scope of financial hardship across Illinois, beyond traditional federal poverty guidelines. United Way introduced ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), which represents households that are working and earning above the poverty line but struggle to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, childcare, healthcare, transportation, and a smartphone.


The report tracks data and economic changes from before and after the Great Recession (2007 and 2010) to show that ALICE workers have been left out of the post-recession recovery as the cost of necessities has grown faster than wages. From 2007 to 2017, the cost of basic needs rose 27 percent for a single adult and 38 percent for a family of four with an infant and preschooler, outpacing the rate of inflation (9 percent) and wage growth (12 percent) state-wide. The result is that from 2010 to 2017, the number of ALICE households in Illinois grew 7.4 percent (from 1,077,153 to 1,156,884) to nearly double the number of households in poverty (601,148 in 2017). In McLean County during that same 8-year period, the number of households in poverty grew from 11 percent to 18 percent (11,726 households) a 73% increase in the number of households in poverty in McLean County. When totaled, the data shows 36 percent of households in McLean County — more than one in three — are in poverty or ALICE. “The increase in the number of ALICE households in Illinois shows that the economic benefits of low unemployment, increased productivity, and a booming stock market are not reaching all residents,” said ALICE Report lead researcher and United For ALICE Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D.


Additional major findings from the ALICE study include:

  • ALICE demographics by age, race, and household type show disparities and trends.
  • The biggest drivers of cost increases for families since the end of the recession are healthcare (up 69%), housing (30%) and childcare (35%).
  • 1/3 of households headed by adults 45 to 64 years old cannot make ends meet, despite being in their prime earning years.

David Taylor, President & CEO of United Way of McLean County, was an early collaborator on the ALICE study. He explains, “The future success of our communities is directly linked with the financial stability and self-sufficiency of all households in our community, particularly ALICE households. With this new ALICE report, we know that one-third of our neighbors are actually struggling financially day-to-day. We are implementing innovative solutions with local partners to create a different future for these families, through efforts like Workforce180.” By releasing the  ALICE report at the State Capital in Springfield, United Way urges legislators to examine how the country thinks about and deals with poverty. Although the data shows that Illinois has significant work ahead to tackle the destabilizing effects of wealth inequality, leaders in various sectors—including policymakers, executives, and academics — can use the ALICE data to raise awareness about this survival budget gap and bring about lasting change.