Louisiana is facing an economic downturn unique to its oil and gas-reliant economy, but its ranking among the nation’s poorest isn’t new.
There’s a likely chance you are among the 40 percent of the state’s working households who struggle daily with increased medical costs, car repairs, childcare and day-to-day expenses. Now there’s a name for you.
You belong to the ALICE threshold.
You’ve got a job, maybe own or rent a home, but you can barely afford the basics. According to a study spearheaded by United Way, more than 695,000 households in the state are financially struggling every year.
“ALICE households are working households; they hold jobs, pay taxes, and provide services that are vital to the Louisiana economy, in a variety of positions such as retail salespeople, laborers and movers, customer service representatives, and nursing assistants,” the study, released Wednesday morning, said.
ALICE, which is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, is a study that looks as family incomes, race, education and health care statewide.
A vast majority of Louisiana’s population never pulled out of the National Recession, the study said. Many of us remain confined to minimum wages as necessary living expenses continue to rise.
Lafayette barista Ashley Duran is a single mom in her early 30s, who would be considered ALICE. She said she makes less than $9 an hour and relies on her work shifts while her child is at school.
“I don’t want to live off the government. I’d go back to school if I could,” Duran said.
According to the study, 32 percent of Lafayette’s population lives within the ALICE threshold.
“The core issue is that these jobs do not pay enough to afford the basics of housing, child care, food, health care, and transportation. Moreover, the growth of low-skilled jobs is projected to outpace that of medium- and high-skilled jobs into the next decade,” the 253-page United Way report said.
The Entergy Corporation and JP Morgan Chase helped sponsored the project. During a Wednesday morning press conference, Entergy Corp. said 74 percent of its Louisiana customers contact the company with payment struggle. About 37 percent of those costumers' circumstances are "desperate."
Sarah Berthelot, president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of United Ways said the ALICE study will be used toward identifying those in need of services and hopefully targeting effective legislation to aid families and individuals living within the threshold.
The report will be distributed to government municipalities, churches and community organizations, Berthelot said.
Here's a breakdown of the report:
The study represents all genders, all races and ages. More than 57 percent of the ALICE threshold are white. About 37 percent are within the prime wage-earning years of 45 to 64 years old.
The average yearly income needed to live in Louisiana ranges is between $39,888 to $48,492 for a family of four. In some circumstances, double the official U.S. poverty level.
Eighty-five percent of the state's parish subdivisions hold more than 30 percent of households living on an income below the ALICE threshold.