Blog: ALICE families struggle to access good jobs and build assets

Many Connecticut families struggle to access good jobs and save for the future, according to an ALICE Update recently released by Connecticut United Ways. The update highlights several key points of the ALICE Report, which takes a close look at households that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed—in other words, earning above  the Federal Poverty Level but below of a basic cost of living threshold.

First, many ALICE families struggle with expenses, limiting their ability to save and build assets. According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development, roughly 39 percent of Connecticut residents would have less than three months of liquid savings to cover basic expenses if they faced a financial shock.

Second, while unemployment has dropped statewide from 9.1 percent to 5.7 percent since the end of the Great Recession, more than half of the gains since 2010 have been in lower-wage industries.  Further, the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey showed a statewide underemployment rate of 14 percent in 2015. Part-time and lower-wage work often lacks health benefits and sick leave, leading to even higher out of pocket expenses for families. 

Third, putting aside savings to prepare for emergencies or to invest in homeownership, education, or retirement is a challenge for ALICE families. A common way to build wealth and assets is through homeownership, but homeownership rates among ALICE families are low.

Saving enough money to pay for tuition and certifications can be challenging for many ALICE workers.  In addition, many feel the pressure to work long or unusual hours just to cover their basic expenses.  Some ALICE workers with children may not be able to afford child care, often staying home to care for their children.  As a result, many lack the time and financial resources needed to fully commit to moving up the ladder. 

But there is some good news.

The 2014 ALICE report revealed that 49 percent of jobs in Connecticut pay more than $20 per hour, and many of these jobs are in managerial, technical, and professional occupations. Connecticut ranks fourth nationwide in the proportion of these jobs which includes scientists, health professionals, consultants, and engineers.

We need to protect good paying jobs and give ALICE families the tools they need to move up the ladder. Stackable shorter term credentials with clear labor market value and flexible curriculum design allow students easier paths to exit and entry and help them build marketable skills to help move their careers forward. 

Connecticut United Ways will continue to fight for ALICE. We’ve developed the United Way Policy Agenda for ALICE which includes policy recommendations, including: additional investment in affordable housing to help ALICE families build long-term assets; and further statewide investment in workforce training, such as non-degree and technical courses with stackable credentials, granting ALICE workers the flexibility to pursue additional advancement opportunities in key industries.

How can you help?  You can raise awareness about ALICE among business, community, and government leaders.  You can also support our Fund for ALICE, which will benefit hard-working ALICE households in the areas of food, housing, education, transportation, and childcare. To make a contribution, visit www.middlesexunitedway.org/ALICEFund. 

 - Kevin Wilhelm, President & CEO

 

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