‘ALICE’ report sobers, disturbs, illuminates

by Walter Pierce

A staggering 40 percent of Louisiana households live paycheck to paycheck, one step ahead of poverty and one mishap away from the poor house.

A new report by the Louisiana Association of United Ways paints a stark portrait of the economic insecurity in which millions in Louisiana live. The ALICE report — that’s an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — finds that nearly 700,000 households in Louisiana, or a staggering 40 percent, cannot afford the most basic cost of living and are one auto accident or broken arm away from insolvency.

Eleven United Ways in the state including the Lafayette-headquartered United Way of Acadiana contributed to the 263-page report, which offers parish-by-parish snapshots of how what are often called the working poor subsist. Many if not most who live within below the ALICE threshold work full time yet live paycheck to paycheck or are incrementally falling behind. The report relies on an array of data from local, state and federal agencies.

The report, for example, identifies Lafayette’s housing affordability as “poor” while it lists as “good” both its job opportunities and community resources. Lafayette, in fact, fares relatively well along with such affluent parishes as St. Tammany and Ascension. Of the 88,500 households in the parish, 32 percent are below the ALICE threshold in Lafayette with, predictably, blacks and Hispanics worse off than whites and Asians. By contrast, a poor parish like East Carroll in extreme Northeast Louisiana has 66 percent of its households below the ALICE threshold with 82 percent of black households but only 36 percent of white households below the threshold.

“We believe this report could be placed in the center of tables across Louisiana to inspire the right kind of conversations— in non-profits, churches, businesses, municipal and state government offices, even on the dinner table in homes,” says Sarah Berthelot, president/CEO of LAUW, in a press release announcing the report. “The United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana provides statewide and hyperlocal data. Sadly, there is no single solution to ‘fix’ the challenges that so many in Louisiana face. However, armed with information from this report, everyone can make more informed decisions to create policies, programs and priorities to improve the lives of ALICE in Louisiana.”

Read the ALICE Report by clicking here.