ALICE Report: A crisis in the making. Ohio ALICE households increased from 31% in 2007 to 39% in 2018 – the highest increase in 10 years, fueled by high-priced basics and stagnant wages.
(Stark and Carroll Counties, Ohio) October 16, 2020 — When COVID-19 hit, more than 1.1 million Ohio households were already one emergency away from financial ruin — a 10-year record high — setting the stage for the unprecedented economic impact of the crisis, according to the state’s latest ALICE Report, released Sept. 17 by United Ways of Ohio, in partnership with United For ALICE.
Over the last decade, Ohio’s low-income families systematically lost buying power and financial stability as the high cost of essentials outpaced wages, driving the number of ALICE households to rise 39% by 2018, the report shows.
“We’ve known that our economy was increasingly reliant on these families we call ALICE, who are financially vulnerable to one emergency,” said Maria Heege, United Way of Greater Stark County President & CEO. “COVID-19 became that one universal emergency. ALICE families are facing the greatest health and financial risks today, as they are the workers who don’t have health insurance, have no paid sick days, and whose children receive daily meals at school.”
In 2018, of Ohio’s 4.7 million households, more than 1.1 million were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) a record number that were unable to afford the basics for survival, despite working. That’s in addition to the 646,948 families that were in poverty. While wages for ALICE workers remained largely stagnant, the cost of six essentials grew on average 3.4% annually over the past decade. That’s in contrast to a rate of inflation of 1.8%.
As a result, ALICE households grew to account for 39% of Ohio’s households in 2018, up from 31% in 2007. In contrast, poverty levels remained largely flat at about 14%. The report shows ALICE households were locked out of the boom economy and unable to establish savings due to meager pay raises and inconsistent job hours, schedules, and benefits.
“No matter how hard ALICE families worked, the gap between their wages and the cost of basics just kept widening,” said Heege. “These already fragile ALICE households are now facing an even deeper financial hole due to the state of emergency created by COVID-19.”
ALICE in Ohio: A Financial Hardship Study shows that in 2018, the cost of survival ranged annually from $21,828 for a single adult, to $24,396 for a senior citizen and $67,404 for a family of four with an infant and a preschooler. Putting this in perspective, the median hourly wage for food preparation and serving workers, the most common occupation in Ohio, was $9.31, or $18,620 per year.
This mismatch between wages and costs is revealed by a new measurement debuting in this report, called the ALICE Essentials Index. This Index chronicles how the cost of housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care and a smartphone plan rose at nearly twice the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The result is that in 2018, two parents working full time needed to earn $16.85 an hour in order to afford the Household Survival Budget for a family of four. That’s up from a wage of $12.93 an hour affording that budget in 2007. During the same period, the number of low-wage jobs grew by 5%, accounting for 35% of all jobs in Ohio in 2018.
“The ALICE Essentials Index shows that, through no fault of their own, ALICE families have been priced out of economic stability, setting the stage for the scope of this crisis,” said United for ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Using the Consumer Price Index alone to measure inflation provides an incomplete picture of the cost of living, severely underestimating the mounting financial pressures on ALICE families.”
In Stark County households, 14.6% (20,696) are classified as poverty level and 23.4% (35,590) as ALICE. In Carroll County households, 13.1% (1,409) are classified as poverty level and 26.1% (2,901) as ALICE.
ALICE households by city: Alliance 23% (1,995) poverty, 31% (2,687) ALICE; Canton 24% (7,154) poverty, 34% (9,947) ALICE; Carrollton 12% (158) poverty, 31% (402) ALICE; Massillon 16% (2,134) poverty, 24% (3,180) ALICE.
For many of these families, the cost of living outpaces what they earn. These households struggle to manage even their most basic needs – housing, food, transportation, childcare, health care, and necessary technology. Often, they make impossible decisions between food or utilities.
“Many of the programs we currently help fund, like CARE Team, Stark County THRIVE, and Meals on Wheels PLUS, specifically address the unique challenges of ALICE population,” says Heege. “But the ALICE report can be used to identify many more areas our community can help support this population, at state and local levels.”
The report calls for stakeholders across all sectors to use its findings to remove obstacles to financial stability, identify gaps in community resources and build data-driven solutions to help ALICE families achieve economic stability, bolstering the state’s economy overall.
About United For ALICE
The ALICE Report for Ohio is a project of United For ALICE, a grassroots movement of some 650 United Ways in 21 states, corporations and foundations, all using the same methodology to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide county-by-county and town-level data, and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence. United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, shining a light on the challenges ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households face and finding collaborative solutions. Through a standardized methodology that assesses the cost of living in every county, this project provides a comprehensive measure of financial hardship across the U.S. Equipped with this data, ALICE partners convene, advocate, and innovate in their local communities to highlight the issues faced by ALICE households and to generate solutions that promote financial stability. The grassroots movement represents United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit: UnitedForALICE.org.
About United Way of Greater Stark County
United Way of Greater Stark County fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. We win by living United. By forging unlikely partnerships. By finding new solutions to old problems. By mobilizing the best resources. And by inspiring individuals to join the fight against their community’s most daunting social crisis. Our mission is to improve the quality of life in our communities by leading in the development of solutions to critical social issues in the areas of health, education and financial stability. In order to live better, we must live United. For more information about United Way of Greater Stark County visit uwstark.org. Offices are at 401 Market Avenue North, Suite 300, Canton, Ohio 44702. (330) 491-0445.