ALICE: FACING AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Pay the rent, or buy groceries?
Fill up the gas tank to get to work, or get a critical prescription?
Take a night shift job and leave the kids home alone, or fall even further behind with the bills?
Every day, low-wage earners are forced to make impossible decisions. They are ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. They often earn too much to qualify for government benefits, but not enough to support a “survival budget” for life’s essentials, like food, housing, healthcare, childcare, and transportation.
|ALICE in Maryland|
Our latest ALICE Report reveals that 38% of Maryland households can’t afford the state’s high cost of living. ALICE represents cashiers, fast food workers and restaurant staff, drivers and warehouse workers, health aides, and more—those in low-wage jobs, with little or no savings and only one emergency away from poverty--who were heralded for keeping our economy going during the pandemic.
While job disruptions and inflation delivered serious financial pain, a combination of pandemic supports and rising wages did help blunt what could've been a deeper financial crisis. But as benefits are peeled back and inflation persists, signs of greater economic stress are on the horizon for ALICE.
ALICE in the Crosscurrents provides the first look at the extent of financial hardship in Maryland since COVID began.
WHO IS ALICE?
Over the course of 15 years, low-wage jobs didn’t keep up with the increased cost of essentials. Workers in retail sales, the most common occupation in Maryland, saw an average loss of buying power of $40,300 — more than a full year’s earnings, according to findings of the ALICE Essentials Index.
Additional research reveals that as people try to lift themselves up the economic ladder, they often suffer a loss in public benefits (the benefits cliff) and a lack of gainful reward despite their greater contributions to the economy and our shared well-being.
In 2021, people living in Maryland were invited to take a survey about how their household has been impacted by the pandemic.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO AFFORD THE BASICS?
ALICE Survival Budget: Central Maryland Average Monthly Costs
|Single Adult||Family of 4|
|Hourly earnings required for single adult, no kids to meet ALICE Survival Budget||$17.78|
|Hourly earnings required for family of four (two adults, two children) to meet ALICE Survival Budget||$45.63|
* Child Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
Better pay and work opportunities were helpful, but not enough to make up for years of being squeezed by the increasing cost of basics. The cost of essential goods had already been outpacing wages for more than a decade, stretching ALICE workers’ household income even further.
55% of the 20 most common jobs in Maryland pay less than $20/hour.
The top five occupations held by ALICE: Cooks, nursing assistants, cashiers, waiters and waitresses, and stockers and order fillers.
Impact of COVID
Those most impacted by unemployment, job disruption, and hazardous and difficult working conditions were immigrants and workers who were American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, or of two or more races.
ALICE Report Sponsors
The ALICE Report for Maryland was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, Ascension Saint Agnes Foundation, Ausherman Family Foundation, BEACON, Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Delaplaine Foundation, Inc., Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., and Turning Point Financial.
United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, research, and action to improve life across the country for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and for all. Through the development of the ALICE measurements, a comprehensive, unbiased picture of financial hardship has emerged. Harnessing this data and research on the mismatch between low-paying jobs and the cost of survival, ALICE partners convene, advocate and collaborate on solutions that promote financial stability at local, state, and national levels. United For ALICE is a grassroots movement of United Ways in 27 states, corporations, and foundations, all using the same methodology to document financial need.