Groundbreaking study reveals 40 percent of Louisiana households struggle to afford basics

Groundbreaking study reveals 40 percent of Louisiana households struggle to afford basics

United Way ALICE Report details size and scope of financial hardship in Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – In Louisiana, 695,719 households — 40 percent of the state’s total — are unable to afford the state’s cost of living, with conditions still lagging behind pre-recession levels, according to the United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana released today by the Louisiana Association of United Ways.

ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, places a spotlight on a large population of hardworking residents who work at low-paying jobs, have little or no savings, and are one emergency from falling into poverty. The United Way ALICE Report is the most comprehensive depiction of financial need in the state to date, using data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census. The report unveils new measures, based on present-day income levels and expenses that show how many Louisiana workers struggling financially, and why.

“We all know ALICE,” said Sarah Berthelot, Louisiana Association of United Ways President and CEO. “ALICE is the hard worker, caring for our elderly and young children, fixing our cars and waiting tables. ALICE families play a critical role in keeping Louisiana’s economic engine running, but they aren’t always sure that they can put food on their own tables.”

A total of 368,682 Louisiana households fall into what United Way calls the ALICE population. These are households earning more than the official U.S. poverty level but less than the basic cost of living in their communities. This number is higher than the official poverty level, which accounts for 327,037 households in Louisiana. Combined, ALICE and those in poverty account for 40 percent of all Louisiana households — that’s two of every five households in Louisiana walking a financial tightrope and at risk of falling into a financial crisis with one set back.

“This report provides the objective data that explains why so many residents are struggling to survive and the challenges they face in attempting to make ends meet,” said the report’s lead researcher, United Way ALICE Project National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Until now, the true picture of need in local communities and states has been understated and obscured by misleading averages and outdated poverty statistics.”

The 253-page United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana reveals many points of data, including:

  • ALICE represents men and women, young and old, of all races, closely mirroring Louisiana’s basic demographic make-up. More than 57 percent of the ALICE population is white and 37 percent are within their prime wage-earning years of 45 to 64 years old.

  • The average income needed in order to survive in Louisiana depends on local conditions and ranges from $39,888 to $48,492 annually for a family of four — in some cases, double the official U.S. poverty level.

  • ALICE lives across the state: 85 percent of Louisiana’s 579 parish subdivisions have more than 30 percent of households living on an income below the ALICE Threshold.

  • There are large concentrations of households with income below the ALICE Threshold in Louisiana’s largest cities. Of the 12 cities with more than 12,000 households, all have more than 35 percent of households with income below the ALICE Threshold, and two have more than 50 percent: Marrero and Monroe.

The United Way ALICE Report provides parish-by-parish and town-level data, and analysis of how many households are struggling. Louisiana Association of United Ways will launch an online, interactive state map that summarizes the scale of ALICE in each parish (map will be available Jan. 27 with the public release of the report).

“The Louisiana Association of United Ways has worked together with 11 Louisiana United Ways to bring the United Way ALICE report to our state. We are grateful for the corporate support that has helped to make this project possible for Louisiana,” said Berthelot. The Entergy Corporation serves as the lead state sponsor and the Louisiana representative on the National ALICE Advisory Council. As a Louisiana Friend of ALICE, JPMorgan Chase is also a supporter of this project.

“Entergy is committed to giving back to the community, because we can only be as strong as the communities we serve,” said Patty Riddlebarger, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Entergy Corporation. “As one of only two Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Louisiana, we take seriously our responsibility to support efforts such as the United Way ALICE Project. The ALICE Project is a road map to stronger communities and economic development. We will use this report to do our part, knowing it will take everyone working together to create a brighter future for all Louisianians."

The United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana provides high-quality, research-based information to foster a better understanding of who is struggling in our communities. 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. This 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. Working closely with United Ways, the United Way ALICE Project seeks to equip communities with information to create innovative solutions.

About Louisiana Association of United Ways

The Louisiana Association of United Ways is an association of seven regional United Ways serving 49 parishes throughout Louisiana. Our mission is to integrate action and resources for the common good. We work across our communities to tackle challenges that affect individuals, families and whole communities — challenges that are ultimately bigger than any of us and impact our entire state. We are part of a global network of more than 1,800 United Ways, servicing communities in 41 countries.


Quotes from Louisiana regional United Way CEOs (also available for interviews):

Capital Area United Way
Darrin Goss, Sr., President & CEO
Media contact: Elena Brown
504-472-4062 (Elena)
Phone: 225-382-3501

“We have always struggled to define who we serve and where we should invest time, talent, and treasure; ALICE focuses both our strategy and resources in the communities and on the people who with our support can lift themselves to a level of income stability.”


St. Landry-Evangeline United Way
Ginger LeCompte, Executive Director
Phone: 337-942-7815/

“St. Landry-Evangeline United Way works to find, with partners, solutions to the problems we see in our communities. The United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana will give us the foundational, as well as the detailed information on the condition of our citizens by adding to the definition of poverty, and putting a real face to those who are challenged each day to get to work, maintain a household, pay for childcare, fix the car, put food on the table, pay for health care, and hope that emergencies don’t pop up that will critically impact their ability to sustain.”


United Way of Acadiana
Margaret H. Trahan, President and CEO
Media Contact: Jennifer Raggio –
Phone: 337-706-1230 (Jennifer)

“ALICE is an important and vital member of Louisiana communities. It's time that we understand ALICE better so that well-intended programs do a better job of addressing what can actually improve quality of life for ALICE and the families they support. United Way of Acadiana’s goal is to create long-lasting change by addressing the underlying causes of our community’s problems. Understanding ALICE helps us develop more successful approaches to long-lasting change and create brighter futures." 


United Way of Central Louisiana
David Britt, CEO
Phone: 318-443-7203

“The ALICE data will help us focus community efforts on working families who are having a tough time. Every community leader I've asked has been very interested in learning more.”


United Way of Iberia
Corleen Aucoin Rouly, Executive Director
Phone: 337-364-0424

“I am so excited about the potential surrounding the United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana! The information it contains sets the stage for endless possibilities in our work, as we strive to facilitate effective changes in the lives of those we serve through our collective and individual community agendas.”


United Way of Northeast Louisiana
Janet S. Durden, President
Phone: 318-366-5397 (cell)

“United Way of Northeast Louisiana partnered to bring this critical data to share with the whole community — so that everyone can have a better understanding of who makes up an important part of our community.”


United Way Northwest Louisiana
Bruce Willson, CEO
Media Contact: Lynn Stevens
Phone: 318-677-2504 (Lynn)

“ALICE provides valuable information in an easily accessible format that will help those who are focused on improving the lives of our citizens who are working but not getting ahead.”


United Way United Way of Southeast Louisiana
Michael Williamson, CEO
Media Contact: Terry Westerfield
Phone: 504-827-6848 (Terry)

“ALICE represents our relatives, our friends, our co-workers and people we count on everyday who strive to make ends meet. This report, finally, puts a face on those who struggle. It shows us the harsh realities that face so many throughout Southeast Louisiana and our entire state. I hope and dream that, today, we begin to change the future narrative and offer a hand up to ALICE. And, while it will take great strength and courage to do so, many hands make light work. Join us as we unite against poverty and rally to the aid of the working poor. Because, what this place needs is you.”


United Way of Southwest Louisiana
Denise Durel, CEO
Media Contact: Taylor Trahan
Phone: 337-433-1088 (Taylor)

“United Way of Southwest Louisiana is proud to be a partner of the United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana. We are hopeful that the information in this report will serve as a powerful tool for all of the human-service providers throughout Southwest Louisiana. Our mission is positive community impact and we believe this data allows us to reach more of our community than ever before.”