De-mystifying the United Way Alice Report

A Behind the Scenes Look of Our Economic Gains

Raising awareness of the challenges low-to moderate-income working families face

Traditional measures of poverty do not capture the magnitude of people who are struggling financially. To better understand the challenges faced by low – to moderate – income families -- and help initiate strategies and policies that help alleviate them, in 2016 United Way of New York State and local United Ways, including United Way of the Greater Capital Region, produced the first statewide ALICE report. The report sheds light on just how much a household needs to earn in order to meet the costs of living for basic necessities. This year, we released our second report, which includes trends over the past two years. 

What is an ALICE household?

Many families have income above the federal poverty level, but not high enough to afford basic household needs like housing, child care, food, transportation and health care. The report refers to these families as ALICE households, an acronym that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

When the cost of basic needs exceed income, it leaves ALICE families dangerously vulnerable to significant financial problems.

What does the report show?

Using a uniform set of minimum living costs, the ALICE report calculates that in 2018, a Greater Capital Region family of four needs an average annual household salary of $72,444—or $36.22 per hour—to afford the minimum necessities to get by. That’s a 10 percent increase from the 2016 report, and nearly three times the Federal Poverty Guideline. A single individual needs to earn $23,688 per year – or $11.84 per hour. That’s nearly double the Federal Poverty Guideline, and a 7 percent increase from 2016.

When you combine the number of ALICE and poverty-level households – referred to as the ALICE threshold – you get a more accurate depiction of the size of the population that is struggling to afford basic needs. Regionally, the overall average number of households living below the ALICE threshold among our five counties grew from 38 percent to 43 percent..

To review the report by any county in New York State or even to drill down by zip code, visit

How is the United Way responding to the findings?

In the face of these numbers, the aim of the United Way is to support programs that enable workers to withstand fluctuations in income that can be devastating to families teetering on the financial edge. We need to develop comprehensive solutions to remove barriers to employment while working to address the causes of the wealth gap that persists.

The United Way has a bold vision for helping families like ALICE reach financial security. Efforts are being made toward the creation of a workforce development pipeline, where individuals will have access to vocational training, interview and resume services, and job readiness programs. The goal is to place individuals into higher paying jobs, and positions with growth opportunities.

The challenges caused by financial instability put enormous stress on families trying to provide for themselves and their children. The ALICE initiative helps to shine a light on these struggles and will have the potential to impact changes that can improve the quality of life for working families.

Do you know someone who is struggling? The United Way’s Call 2-1-1 helpline helps individuals navigate the web of social service/HHS providers.  One simple call connects residents to a trained operator who evaluates the callers’ needs, accesses a database of hundreds of agencies AND connect them to the best possible solution.  This service is free, fast and confidential.  It is available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year in more than 200 languages.  Or visit