For most, Alice is a female name which became popular in the 12th century. The title is a derivative of the Greek word meaning 'truth,' which seems a fitting attachment to the committee dubbed 'ALICE' by the United Way to study not just poverty - but the ability to afford basic needs.

ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The study set out to find poverty percent levels by state and take those numbers one step further by seeking the population who were employed, but are unable to pay for what the study considers 'basic needs,' listed as follows:

  • Housing
  • Childcare
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Health Care
  • Technology
  • Miscellaneous
  • Taxes
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Household survival budget.jpg

The ALICE committee cited the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; U.S. Department of Agriculture; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Internal Revenue Service; the Tax Foundation; and the Louisiana Department of Education as sources for filling out their cost of living chart.

All-in-all, the study found that in order to afford basic needs through those categories, a single individual would need to make, roughly, $1,600 per month - which equates to $9.77 per hour.

On the other hand, a family with two parents and two young children would require almost $4,500 per month - $54,000 per year, broken down to $27 an hour.

Armed with that base of information, the committee set out using census data and the American Community Survey to process household data and begin to place homes in categories - above ALICE; within ALICE; and in poverty. According to the study, of the 1.73 million households in Louisiana (2016) 19% lived below poverty, 29% were considered ALICE (not included in poverty numbers), and 52% were above the ALICE threshold. 

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Families with children.jpg

Families with single parents experienced the toughest variance in the ALICE rankings, especially those headed by a single female. 79% of married, Louisiana couples (281,000 households) were above ALICE levels, with 21% living between ALICE and poverty. 

154,000 households were run by single mothers, who experienced a 59% poverty rate and 26% ALICE rate, leaving only 15% living above ALICE. A stark comparison to male-headed households (41,000) with a 30% poverty rate, 25% ALICE rate, and 45% above ALICE.

Only 26% of Louisiana households report having children.

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Household age rates.jpg

The report states that 1.24 million households are head by individual 25-64, who experience roughly the same above-ALICE rate of 54%, with an ALICE rate in the mid-20s and poverty rate in the teens. Not much changes as households move into the 65+ category, but statistics for homes head by individuals 24 and under show a 50% poverty rate, 29% ALICE rate, leaving room for just 21% living above ALICE levels.

According to the committee, there's an issue with upward mobility as 66% of wage-paying jobs in Louisiana pay less than $20 an hour. 30% pay $20-$30, with the final 4% paying $40-$60. The committee's methodology suggests that wage levels fluctuate based on cost-of-living nearest the business, but that means even higher wages sometimes can't cover increased costs of necessities.

Where does that leave Livingston Parish? At 47,479 households Livingston has an above-ALICE rate of 60%, with 27% living in the ALICE wage limbo, and 13% living in poverty.

How does that stack up to neighboring parishes?

  • Ascension - 40,663 households; 12% poverty; 22% ALICE; 66% above ALICE
  • Tangipahoa - 47,756 households; 19% poverty; 29% ALICE; 52% above ALICE
  • East Baton Rouge - 163,764 households; 19% poverty; 28% ALICE; 53% above ALICE

The study went so far as to break it down in several different ways, including by Parish Council District and municipalities. Districts 1 and 5 (Watson and south Denham Springs, respectively) held the lowest poverty and ALICE rates, while Districts 8 and 9 were the highest in both categories.

PARISH COUNCIL DISTRICTS

  • District 1 (Jeff Ard) - 4,350 households; 19% poverty; 29% ALICE; 52% above ALICE
  • District 2 (Garry Talbert) - 7,481 households; 10% poverty; 23% ALICE; 67% above ALICE
  • District 3 (Maurice Keen) - 6,114 households; 9% poverty; 27% ALICE; 64% above ALICE
  • District 4 (John Wascom) - 3,430 households; 10% poverty; 35% ALICE; 55% above ALICE
  • District 5 (RC Harris) - 5,927 households; 9% poverty; 23% ALICE; 68% above ALICE
  • District 6 (Jeff Averette) - 6,992 households; 10% poverty; 25% ALICE; 64% above ALICE
  • District 7 (Tracy Girlinghouse) - 5,375 households; 14% poverty; 27% ALICE; 59% above ALICE
  • District 8 (Tab Lobell) - 3,937 households; 19% poverty; 25% ALICE; 56% above ALICE
  • District 9 (Shane Mack) - 4,408 households; 27% poverty; 31% ALICE; 42% above ALICE

MUNICIPALITIES

  • Denham Springs - 3,884 households; 12% poverty; 34% ALICE; 54% above ALICE
  • Walker - 2,428 households; 12% poverty; 33% ALICE; 55% above ALICE
  • Livingston - 664 households; 12% poverty; 33% ALICE; 55% above ALICE
  • Albany - 525 households; 21% poverty; 33% ALICE; 46% above ALICE
  • Springfield - 172 households; 33% poverty; 29% ALICE; 38% above ALICE
  • Killian - 497 households; 14% poverty; 31% ALICE; 55% above ALICE
  • French Settlement - 487 households, 18% poverty; 25% ALICE; 57% above ALICE
  • Port Vincent - 358 households; 6% poverty; 30% ALICE; 64% above ALICE

The units of analysis the ALICE committee used to compile the information are as follows:

  1. Make a household the unit of analysis: Because people live in a variety of economic units (families, roommates, etc.), the ALICE tools measure households. ALICE households do not include those living in institutional group quarters, such as college dorms, nursing homes, homeless shelters or prisons.
  2. Define the basic cost of living: The goal is to define the basic elements needed to participate in the modern economy. Other measures either are unrealistically low, where a household earning the Threshold still cannot afford basic necessities, or they create an income benchmark higher than is required to afford a household’s basic needs. The ALICE measures provide a conservative estimate for the costs ofhouseholdessentials: housing, child care, food, transportation,technology, and health care, plus miscellaneous expenses and taxes.

  3. Measure the number of households unable to afford the basic cost of living: In addition to capturing the basic cost of living, it is important to know the number and proportion of households unable to afford it. Where possible, it is also important to understand their demographic characteristics and geographic distribution.

  4. Provide data at the local level: Counties serve as the base geographic unit of analysis because they are the smallest jurisdiction for which we can obtain reliable data across the country. Where possible, we also measure ALICE indicators at the Census Bureau’s municipal, county subdivision,and Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) level. State-level data, while available for a broader set of economic indicators, masks significant inter-county variation.

  5. Make new measures transparent and easy to understand: To ensure that measures are transparent and easily understandable, all data come from official and publicly available sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In particular, using readily available data from the American Community Survey’s tabulated data as the basis for estimates ensures that calculations are transparent and easily verifiable.

  6. Ensure that measures can be easily updated on a regular basis: ALICE measures are standardized using regularly collected, publicly available data to ensure that they can be applied across every county and updated regularly.

  7. Make new measures replicable across all states: The ALICE measures quantify financial hardship across geographic jurisdictions and over time. The standard measures enable comparison and common understanding.

  8. Identify important contextual conditions: Because economic hardship does not occur in a vacuum, the ALICE tools provide the means to understand the conditions that struggling households face (such as few job opportunities), as well as the consequences of those struggles for the wider community (such as more traffic and longer commutes as workers find lower-cost homes further away from job sites, or stress on emergency rooms overused for primary care).

  9. Use neutral language: Because the term “poverty” carries negative connotations, a more neutral descriptive acronym is offered. The term “ALICE” describes a household that is Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

For more information on the ALICE study of Louisiana, visit their website at https://www.unitedwayalice.org/louisiana

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