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MADISON, WI—Sept. 14, 2016­—Out of 2.3 million households across the state, nearly half are unable to afford the state’s cost of living, with conditions still trailing pre-recession levels, according to the United Way ALICE Report released today by United Way of Wisconsin in conjunction with the 43 local United Ways across Wisconsin.

 

The ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Study of Financial Hardship spotlights a large population of hardworking residents who work at low-paying jobs, have little or no savings and are one emergency away from falling into poverty. The report is the most comprehensive depiction of financial grief in Wisconsin to date, using the latest data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census. The report unveils new metrics, based on

present-day income levels and expenses, that quantify the financial struggles of Wisconsin’s workforce and the reasons behind those struggles.

 

A total of 670,922 Wisconsin households fall into what United Way calls the ALICE population. These are households earning more than the official U.S. poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living. This number is more than double the official poverty rate, which accounts for 289,209 households in the state. Combined, ALICE and poverty households account for 42 percent of all households in Wisconsin.

 

“We all know ALICE,” said United Way of Wisconsin Executive Director Charlene Mouille. “ALICE is the recent college graduate unable to afford to live on his or her own; the young family strapped by child care costs and the mid-career professional now underemployed. These folks are vital to our state’s future economic well-being, and they face barriers beyond their control, frustrating their ability to become financially stable.”

 

United Ways in Wisconsin have joined the grassroots movement of over 300 United Ways in 14 states using the same methodology for documenting financial need. The reports build on a United Way study first developed in

 

 

In partnership with Rutgers University. The New Jersey United Way ALICE Report provides county-by-county and town-level data and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face in pursuit of financial independence.

 

“This report provides the objective data that explains why so many residents are struggling to survive and the challenges they face in attempting to make ends meet,” said the report’s lead researcher, United Way ALICE Project National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Until now, the true picture of need in local communities and states has been understated and obscured by misleading averages and outdated poverty statistics.”

 

The United Way ALICE Report reveals:

·         Over two-thirds of Wisconsin’s municipalities have more than 30 percent of households living below the ALICE Threshold. All counties (urban, suburban, rural) have between 28 and 66 percent of households living below the ALICE Threshold.

·         ALICE families with children include both married and single parents. Of all the state’s families with children who live below the ALICE threshold, 30 percent are married couples, 53 percent are headed by single women and 17 percent by single men.

·         The average Wisconsin household earns 46 percent of what is needed to reach basic financial stability.  Sixty-five percent of all jobs in Wisconsin pay less than $20 an hour, making it tough to support a family of four.

·         Eighty-nine percent of ALICE households are headed by someone who is white. ALICE represents a cross-section of Wisconsin’s population.

 

ALICE is often forced to make choices that compromise their health and safety in order to make ends meet, Mouille explained, putting both ALICE and the wider community at risk of long-term societal and economic repercussions.

 

“When ALICE has to choose unlicensed child care or longer commutes or emergency room health care in exchange for putting food on the table, we all suffer the consequences—increased education costs, heavier traffic and higher health care premiums,” Mouille said. “United Way is committed to looking beyond the emergency Band-Aids and providing long-term solutions that will strengthen our communities.”

 

United Way is focused on providing a basic foundation in education, financial stability and health to help improve the lives of both ALICE households and those in poverty, for the long-term benefit of the wider community.

 

To read the report and find county-by-county and town-level data on the size and demographics of the Wisconsin ALICE population, as well as the community conditions and costs faced by ALICE households, visit https://unitedwaywi.site-ym.com/page/alice .

 

The United Way ALICE Report was funded in part by corporate sponsors including AT&T, Atlantic Health System, Deloitte, Entergy, Novartis and The UPS Foundation. For more information or to find data about ALICE in local communities, visit www.unitedwaywi.org .

 

About United Way of Wisconsin: United Way goes beyond temporary fixes to create lasting change in communities throughout Wisconsin. By bringing people and organizations together around innovative solutions, United Ways across Wisconsin advance the common good by creating opportunities for all. Our focus is on education, income and health—the building blocks for a good quality of life. Connect with your local United Way to learn more about the organization's progress in advancing common good in your community. The United Way of Wisconsin (UWWi) is the statewide organization providing member support services to the local and independent United Ways in Wisconsin. Through UWWi member support services, local United Ways in Wisconsin have capacity to individually and collectively build stronger communities.

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