UNITED FOR ALICE WAGE TOOL

EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF WAGE LEVELS AND OCCUPATIONS ON ALICE

Even before the pandemic, in 2018, 42% of U.S. households were struggling to make ends meet. This includes households with income below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and households who are ALICE (Asset, Limited, Income, Constrained, Employed). With income above the FPL, ALICE households earn too much to qualify as “poor” but are still unable to cover basic household expenses.

Over the last decade, two factors have driven an increase in ALICE households: The costs of household essentials have gone up, but wages have stagnated. While cost of living varies considerably from one state, region, and county to another, a family’s ability to afford household expenses also depends on how much they have an opportunity to earn. This tool provides insight into how different wage levels impact an ALICE household’s ability to afford a bare-bones survival budget.

The ALICE Household Survival Budget estimates the bare minimum cost of household necessities (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and a basic smartphone plan), plus taxes and a contingency fund (miscellaneous) equal to 10% of the budget. The ALICE Wage Tool identifies the counties where a certain hourly wage can support the Household Survival Budget for a selected household type. For example, when selecting a wage of $9 per hour and a family of three (two workers, one child), the map shows that with two adults working full-time, year-round, $9 per hour cannot support basic household costs in any county in the U.S. At $12 per hour, two adults working full time, year-round can afford the Household Survival Budget in 54% of U.S. counties.

 
Info

Use the drop-down menu to select a state ("all" includes all U.S. counties), the slider or arrows to select an hourly wage, and the drop-down menu to select a household type.

Hover over the map to see the wage needed to support the Household Survival Budget for the selected household type. The map is also colored to show in which counties the selected wage can (light color) and can't (dark color) support the basic budget.

Below the map is the percentage of counties in which the selected wage is enough/not enough to cover the Household Survival Budget for the selected household type.

Click the gray bar at the bottom of the map to see the County List, which shows if the selected wage covers the Household Survival Budget (Yes/No) for each county in the selected geography. To return to the map view, click "Back to Overview."

The ALICE Wage Tool also illustrates the number of U.S. workers currently employed at different wage levels. The map below shows the number of workers employed at a selected wage, as well as the percentage of workers who make above and below that wage. For example, almost 2 million workers nationwide earn less than $9 per hour, making up about 2% of all workers. The darker the color on the map, the higher the number of workers earning less than that hourly wage.

This data is provided by location — including national, state, and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) — and occupation (see List of Occupations below the map). For example, in the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA MSA, nearly 22,000 Retail Salespersons earn less than $12 per hour.

 
Info

Use the drop-down menu to select a state ("all" includes all U.S. counties) and the slider or arrows to select an hourly wage.

Hover over the map to see the number of employees working for less than the selected hourly wage by metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. The darker the color on the map, the higher the number of employees working below the selected wage.

Below the map is the total number of employees working for less than the selected wage for the selected geography, as well as the percentage of employees working for less than and more than the selected hourly wage.

Click the gray bar at the bottom of the map to see the List of Occupations. Within this view, use the drop-down menus to select a state ("all" includes all U.S. counties) and MSA. The table below shows a list of occupations and the number of employees who earn below and above the selected wage for the selected geography. To return to the map view, click "Back to Overview."

If you have questions or would like to share how you have used this tool in your work, please contact us.

Technical Details

Sources: American Community Survey, 2018; ALICE Household Survival Budget, 2018; Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018.

Household Wages: In the first map, for households with more than one worker, both workers in the household are assigned the selected wage. For example, for a Family of 3 (two adults, one child) and a selected wage of $10, both workers are assigned the wage for a household total of $20 per hour.

Tipped Workers: For tipped, commission, and piece-rate workers, hourly wage rates are calculated from total earnings reported, which includes base pay plus tips, commissions, or piece rates.

States and MSAs: In the second map, some MSAs cover more than one state; in that case, the MSA data overrides the state data in the List of Occupations. For example, if New Jersey is selected and the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA MSA is selected, the Occupations data shown in the table includes all workers in that multi-state MSA.