ALICE in Iowa

Once upon a time is the opening line of so many of our favorite childhood books. But there is a real story told every day in Iowa that is not a fairytale. It is the story of ALICE. She is working - often at more than one job, has income above the Federal Poverty Level and, yet, still cannot make ends meet each month.

ALICE is an acronym to represent all those in our community who are Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed. She is not an individual, but a conceptual blending of all those in our community who bring home a paycheck that doesn’t stretch to cover a household’s needs.

If we look around, we can see ALICE everywhere we go. She is the heroine that holds the fabric of our communities together.  She’s in convenience stores, coffee shops and restaurants, the person taking care of our youngest children and our oldest citizens. ALICE is glad to have a job, proud of her work and happy to contribute to the community. She is also always afraid of the wolf at the door – the next car repair, doctor visit or unexpected bill.

This report, a joint project of the United Ways in Iowa, tells the real story of those in our communities who meet the ALICE Threshold. Businesses, public officials and community members are well aware that people are struggling in our state. However, they often don’t understand the depths of the struggle, the real fears of these families and the consequences for all of us when we don’t listen to their tale. This report is a first step in further opening the conversation with a common language to create a new ending for ALICE’s story.

ALICE deserves to be remembered in our conversations. She represents more than 30% of Iowa’s population. We find her in all areas of our state, from the cities of Des Moines and Cedar Rapids to my small hometown of Gladbrook. This report will shine a light on her opportunities and challenges so policymakers, community members and service providers will ask themselves, “How does my decision today affect ALICE tomorrow?”

You are reading this report because you have the opportunity to engage in work that will write new chapters for ALICE. Please review the executive summary and the county data to better understand the experiences and implications of Iowa’s ALICE population. Connect with your local United Way and other organizations to raise awareness about ALICE and participate in efforts to maximize her opportunities.

United Ways of Iowa invested in this project to provide a tool for all those in our state who serve ALICE.  We will continue to engage our communities to address these issues and allow ALICE to achieve and maintain financial stability. Her success strengthens our state and our work together can create a happier ending for ALICE and future generations of Iowans.