Research Center • Tennessee
We all know people who are ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE workers educate our children, keep us healthy, and make our quality of life possible, yet do not earn enough to support their own families. ALICE households are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent, which have long-term consequences not only for ALICE, but for all.
In order to better understand this growing population, United For ALICE provides a framework, language, statistics, and tools that community stakeholders can use to inform policy and drive innovation. The Research Center is the hub of UnitedForALICE.org — a one-stop source for exploring the latest ALICE data, on a national scale down to the local level in our partner states. Use the tabs below to navigate the Research Center.
Tennessee • Labor Force
ALICE workers play an essential role in the state economy but have not benefitted from many of the state’s recent economic gains — a reality that is not captured by traditional economic measures. This page breaks down labor force data in new ways, and in so doing highlights the challenges ALICE workers face, including:
- The declining power of wages to keep up with the cost of living
- A growing dependence on hourly wages
- A historically high number of adults out of the labor force
- Increased economic risk for workers
The majority of jobs in the state paid less than $20 per hour in 2018, making it difficult for many households to make ends meet, even with two workers employed full time.
Number of Jobs by Hourly Wage, Tennessee, 2018
County Labor Force Tool, Tennessee, 2018
The overview of the labor status of adults over the age of 16 in 2018 (below) reveals two key characteristics of the state labor force:
- A large (and growing) number of workers are paid hourly. Workers who are paid by the hour are more likely to have fluctuations in income due to frequent schedule changes and variable hours, and they are less likely to receive benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, family leave, or retirement benefits.
- A historically high number of workers are out of the labor force. This has helped keep wages low: When more workers are available, employers have less incentive to raise wages to attract employees. Many workers are out of the labor force due to retirement; other reasons include school, health issues/disability, and family caregiving responsibilities.
Labor Status, Population 16 and Over, Tennessee, 2018
Finally, where you work matters. Employment and wages vary by firm size. Large firms tend to offer higher wages and are more likely to offer benefits; medium-size firms pay more but typically employ the fewest workers; and smaller businesses can account for more jobs overall, especially in rural areas, but may pay less and offer fewer benefits. Small firms are also less stable, with almost an equal number starting up and closing down each year.