United Way ALICE Project Finds Nearly 43 Percent Of American Households Struggle To Pay Monthly Bills

A new study released today found a staggering number of Americans are one emergency away from financial catastrophe.

United Way ALICE project finds many U.S. families struggling to pay expenses.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

A new study released today found a staggering number of Americans are one emergency away from financial catastrophe.

Despite a booming economy, many American families still face an economic crisis. A study released today by the United Way ALICE Project revealed nearly 51 million households struggle every month to pay necessary living expenses like rent, child care, food, healthcare, and transportation.

In addition to 16.1 million families currently living in poverty, ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – identified 34.7 million households simply do not have enough to “survive in the modern economy.” Even with a growing economy and increased opportunity, “financial hardship is still a pervasive problem,” said Stephanie Hoopes, the project’s director.

Nationally, per the study, a family of four bringing in less than $58,200 per year is on the edge of financial collapse. Single adults need to earn at least $19,000 to pay monthly expenses.

According to a CNN report, almost half of all families living in California, New Mexico, and Hawaii have the hardest time trying to stay afloat every month. The lowest number was in North Dakota, with 32 percent.

Even at a historically low unemployment rate of 4 percent, merely being employed does not mean a family can afford the basics. Some necessities, like gas, have been on the rise recently as inflation slowly eats away at a household’s budget.

Store clerks, child care workers, home health aides, and office assistants have the least saved and are among the lowest paid workers. Per the study, about two-thirds of jobs available in the United States pay less than $20 per hour.

“ALICE is our cashier, our home health aide, security guard, mover, office clerk,” said Hoopes, as cited by New Jersey 101.5. “We run into ALICE 10 times a day. Some of us have been ALICE and we certainly all have ALICE in our families.”

The ALICE project even evaluated financial statistics at the county level.

To survive comfortably in King County, Washington, a family of four would need an annual income of around $85,000. This essentially translates into a $42 per hour job. However, less than 15 percent of employers in the state of Washington pay at least or more than that.

Roughly 43 percent of American families are scraping by financially. The project, started by the United Way of Northern New Jersey 10 years ago, found ALICE households are one emergency away from financial disaster.