A Startling Truth: for one-third of the U.S. population, the struggle to cover basic needs is a daily burden. In Rock Island County 39% of residents and in Scott County 27% of residents struggle to pay for their basic needs.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. With the cost of living higher than most wages pay, ALICE families work hard and earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care.

Who is ALICE?

  • Men and women, young and old, of all races and ethnicities, living in rural, urban, and suburban areas
  • Individuals who get up each day to go to work but aren’t sure in they’ll be able to put dinner on the table each night
  • With low wages, and no savings, these hard-working individuals have no ability to meet their current needs, or to adequately prepare for the future
  • Families are particularly vulnerable to financial shocks like job loss, unexpected medical expenses, and natural disasters
  • Families are forced to make impossible choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying rent

Why are there so many ALICE households?

  • Low wage jobs dominate the local economy.
  • The basic cost of living outpaces wages.
  • Jobs are not located near housing that is affordable.
  • Public and private assistance helps, but doesn’t achieve financial stability.


  • When ALICE households cannot make ends meet, they are forced to make difficult choices such as forgoing health care, accredited child care, healthy food, or car insurance.
  • This threatens their health, safety, and future – and they reduce productivity and raise insurance premiums and taxes for everyone.

The Federal Poverty Level is not an accurate portrayal of financial need

  • The Federal Poverty Level is the same across the country; it has never been adjusted to account for the cost-of-living differences from one area to another.
  • The methodology for determining the Federal Poverty Level has not been updated to account for the changing cost of basic household needs – housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care.

Download the ALICE flyer here to see the Rock Island County and Scott County statistics.


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United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in the Quad Cities.