Meet your neighbor, ALICE

Leslie D. Rose

     In Louisiana, 695,719 households — 40 percent of the state total — are unable to afford basic cost of living, with conditions still lagging behind pre-recession levels. That’s according to United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana, released by the Louisiana Association of United Ways (LAUW), along with 11 United Ways across the state.

     ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, places a spotlight on a large population of hardworking residents who are struggling to make ends meet, have little or no savings, and are one emergency away from falling into poverty.

     While state numbers show nearly half of Louisiana’s population are at ALICE or poverty levels (40 percent), Ascension Parish boasts numbers at better rates. 

     Ascension Parish’s population for the study was taken from 2013 Census data, and shows 114,393 residents in 40,762 households. The median household income shows $75,308, while the state average is $44,164. The unemployment rate was reported at 5.7 percent, lower than the state’s 8 percent average. Overall, the report shows Ascension Parish has 78 percent of its population above ALICE, 12 percent at ALICE and 10 percent in poverty.

     Using the 2013 data, municipalities in the report include Donaldsonville with a total number of 2593 households and a combined percentage of 48 percent of residents at ALICE and poverty levels. Lemannville follows with 157 households at 35 percent ALICE and below. Gonzales, with 3834 households and  34 percent ALICE and below. Sorrento, with 659 households and 31 percent ALICE and poverty levels, and Prairieville with the majority of the Parish households at 9369 and the lowest ALICE and poverty levels at 15 percent. The municipal-level data is not set to match parish-level data and relies on three and five year averages.

     To produce the United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana, a team of researchers collaborated with a research advisory committee, composed of 19 representatives from around Louisiana, who advised and contributed to the report. Louisiana is one of the first ten states in the country to produce an ALICE study. The collaborative model, practiced in each state, ensures each United Way ALICE Report presents unbiased data that is replicable, easily updated on a regular basis, and sensitive to local context.

     “The United Way ALICE Report is the most complete picture to date of the struggles faced by Louisiana households,” said Gary Asmus, Ph.D., a member of the ALICE research advisory committee. “To solve a problem, we must first understand it and this report provides a solid baseline against which we can measure progress and understand the effects of creating a quality educational system that can lift people out of poverty and put them on the road to sustainability.”

     The report also shows economic conditions, such as housing affordability, job opportunities and community resources. The Economic Visibility Dashboard, as is referred to in the report, ranks conditions on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best. In housing, Ascension Parish rated 50, which is considered fair, 60 in community resources and 78 in job opportunities which are considered good.

     The study also highlights the cost of basic necessities in regards to bare-minimum budgets that do not allow for savings. In this portion, items such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, taxes and miscellaneous expenses that could leave a household vulnerable, are considered.

     “This United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana reminds us that too many individuals and families live on the brink of financial disaster and crisis every day and that we can and should do more to protect them, especially the most vulnerable populations like children and the elderly,” said Vicki Mack, MHA, PhD, a member of the ALICE research advisory committee. “The strategies provided in this report can improve the well-being of many people in each parish, and the state as a whole.”

     Considering that Ascension Parish as a whole boasts low levels of ALICE and poverty, it could be stated that there is no crisis. However with certain municipalities showing much higher numbers of poverty, the study highlights areas in which these places can work on improving conditions for residents who fall under ALICE and below. The full study and parish breakdowns are available at

     Parish officials were unavailable for comment as of press time.