Key Terms

Household Survival Budget: The bare-minimum costs of basic necessities (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and a smartphone plan).

ALICE Threshold: The average income needed to afford the Household Survival Budget. Households below the ALICE Threshold include both ALICE and poverty-level households.

ALICE: Households with income above the Federal Poverty Level but below the basic cost of living.

Poverty: Households earning below the Federal Poverty Level

Total Households: The number of households as reported by the American Community Survey.

COVID-19 and ALICE

COVID-19 and ALICE

Understanding the Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our racial and economic shortcomings for all to see and worsened financial hardship for many struggling households.

Before the pandemic, 42% of U.S. households were already unable to make ends meet. This includes households in poverty and those that are ALICE (Asset, Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). With income above the Federal Poverty Level, ALICE households earn too much to qualify as “poor” but are still unable to cover basic household expenses in the counties where they live.

Our Report, The Pandemic Divide: An ALICE Analysis of National COVID Surveys, reveals that ALICE families fared significantly worse than higher income households during the pandemic — financially, physically, and emotionally.

This research is bolstered by the ALICE COVID-19 and Vaccination Trackers, as well as the other resources on this page. Together, they shed light on the experiences of ALICE households, fill gaps left by traditional economic measures, and help policymakers and community stakeholders make data-informed decisions to address the root causes of financial hardship.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our racial and economic shortcomings for all to see and worsened financial hardship for many struggling households.

Before the pandemic, 42% of U.S. households were already unable to make ends meet. This includes households in poverty and those that are ALICE (Asset, Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). With income above the Federal Poverty Level, ALICE households earn too much to qualify as “poor” but are still unable to cover basic household expenses in the counties where they live.

Our Report, The Pandemic Divide: An ALICE Analysis of National COVID Surveys, reveals that ALICE families fared significantly worse than higher income households during the pandemic — financially, physically, and emotionally.

This research is bolstered by the ALICE COVID-19 and Vaccination Trackers, as well as the other resources on this page. Together, they shed light on the experiences of ALICE households, fill gaps left by traditional economic measures, and help policymakers and community stakeholders make data-informed decisions to address the root causes of financial hardship.

ALICE and COVID-19 Tracker

This map shows the percentage of households below the ALICE Threshold (Poverty + ALICE), along with COVID-19 case counts and deaths in each county across the U.S. While COVID-19 has impacted households of all income levels, households that were struggling even before COVID may need additional support as our economy continues to recover from the pandemic.

How to Use This Tool

  • Select either cumulative cases, new cases, or per capita cases
  • Select either COVID-19 positive cases or deaths
  • Red dots represent the magnitude of the selected data. The larger the dot, the higher the number of COVID-19 cases or deaths
  • The shading on the map shows the relative percentage of households below the ALICE Threshold. The darker the color, the higher the percentage
  • Hover over the national map to see the name of the state, the percentage of households below the ALICE Threshold, cumulative positive cases, new positive cases, cumulative deaths, or new deaths for the time period listed above the map
  • Choose a state to view county-level data
  • View the chart to the right of the map to see a sorted view (high to low) of positive cases or deaths for all states (if "all" is selected) or counties within a state (if a state is selected)
  • View the charts below the map to see cumulative positive COVID-19 cases and cumulative COVID-19 deaths over time for the selected geography (U.S., state, or county)

Sources: ALICE Threshold, 2018; New York Times, 2022

ALICE and COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker

This map shows the percentage of households below the ALICE Threshold (Poverty + ALICE), along with the percent of the population that is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Fully vaccinated means a person has received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines (both shots of two-shot regimens, like Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or one shot of the Janssen-Johnson & Johnson vaccine). Tracking vaccination rates along with ALICE data can help pinpoint gaps in vaccination rates by household financial status.

How to Use This Tool

  • The dots on the map signify the relative percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated. Dots are shaded from dark red (lowest percentage of fully vaccinated population) to dark green (highest percentage of fully vaccinated population)
  • The shading on map shows the relative percentage of households below the ALICE Threshold. The darker the color, the higher the percentage
  • Hover over the national map to see the name of the state, the percentage of households below the ALICE Threshold, the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated, the percentage of the population that has initiated their vaccinations (but may not yet be fully vaccinated), the total population, the total number of vaccinations completed, and the date the data was last updated
  • Click on a state and county-level data will appear below the national map

Sources: ALICE Threshold, 2018; CDC COVID Data Tracker, 2022

ALICE Measures can Guide Recovery

By more accurately identifying need, the ALICE measures can guide better policies and practices to help families weather the current crisis. COVID-19 shows how exposed ALICE households — and therefore all our communities and businesses — are to an emergency. We know that:

ALICE WORKERS ARE MORE VULNERABLE:

The pandemic has created two groups of ALICE workers: those who are essential and still working, typically on-site; and those who are non-essential, who are now working far fewer hours or not at all.

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  • Essential ALICE workers continue to keep our infrastructure running and take care of COVID-19 patients and others needing health care
    • Many do not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), so they are risking their health — and their families’ health
    • Some employers have stepped up and are providing “hero’s pay,” but even $2 per hour more does not bring most ALICE workers to financial stability
    • Despite the ongoing economic slowdown, some employers have already pulled back "hero’s pay"
    • Even essential ALICE workers are still struggling paycheck to paycheck
  • For many non-essential ALICE workers, the economic slowdown has severely reduced employment
    • The industries where ALICE works – food service, leisure, hospitality, tourism – have been hit the hardest
    • ALICE is more likely to work in small businesses, which on average offer lower wages and fewer benefits, and have been hit hardest by the pandemic: The number of small businesses open in the U.S. decreased by 19.1% between January and August 2020
    • Black and Hispanic ALICE workers are facing even higher rates of unemployment
    • With less access to the internet and computers, ALICE workers have more difficulty working from home

BLACK ALICE HOUSEHOLDS ARE AT GREATER RISK:

Black people are contracting COVID-19 at higher rates and dying at higher rates than their White counterparts. These disparities are being fed by multiple factors:

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  • Black households are more likely to face financial hardship: 60% of Black households are unable to afford basic household essentials in their communities — nearly double the rate of White households
  • Black families remain disproportionately likely to live in substandard housing in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty — those with few grocery stores, banks, parks, or recreation facilities, with inadequate health care services and under-resourced public schools, and with high levels of violence and exposure to environmental hazards
  • Black households and communities have long faced institutional barriers to quality health care

ALICE FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN FACE ADDITIONAL HARDSHIPS:

Almost one in four families with children in the U.S. have income below the ALICE Threshold. They are especially vulnerable to the disruptions that accompany child care, school, and university closures.

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  • More than one-quarter of households below the ALICE Threshold do not have adequate internet access, compromising participation in e-learning
  • Parents who need to work cannot stay at home with their children, leading to health and safety issues for unsupervised children or jeopardizing a parent’s ability to work
  • ALICE families can lose access to other supports, such as free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches provided at school

ALICE SENIORS FACE GREATER RISKS:

People over the age of 60 are the age group most susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19. Half of seniors in the U.S. have income below the ALICE Threshold; they have no extra income and little or no savings to cover extra health care costs.

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  • More than 40% of U.S. coronavirus deaths are linked to nursing homes, which puts both ALICE seniors and ALICE health care workers at higher risk
  • ALICE seniors are at higher risk of loneliness and isolation, and as the pandemic continues, they also risk declining nutrition and health as social distancing limits trips to the grocery store and preventative care visits
  • When senior centers close, ALICE seniors and their families must navigate additional burdens, such as taking on caregiving responsibilities and adapting to the loss of supports like hot meals and social activity

COVID-19 Resources: The Consequences for ALICE Families

As outlined in detail in the 2019 Consequences of Insufficient Household Income Report, ALICE families face tough choices when they do not have enough income or assistance to afford basic necessities. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated and shifted the challenges and risks to a family’s immediate health, safety, and financial stability. While the crisis is still unfolding, we share here some resources to track the pandemic’s impact on the six essential areas of a household budget — housing, child care and education, food, transportation, health care, and technology — as well as on jobs and income. We also offer a variety of resources for tracking COVID-19 data.

HOUSING

CHILD CARE AND EDUCATION

FOOD

TRANSPORTATION

HEALTH CARE

TECHNOLOGY

JOBS AND INCOME

COVID-19 DATA/RATES

ARCHIVED RESOURCES/LINKS

June 2020:


May 2020:


April 2020:


Undated: