ALICE in the Crosscurrents in Pierce County - Update


Dona Ponepinto, President and CEO
United Way of Pierce County
1501 Pacific Ave, Suite 400
Tacoma, WA 98402
253-597-6429 (Direct)
253-272-4263 (Main)
Please direct all media inquiries to Natasha Ashenhurst,, 360.970.9458

Despite Bigger Paychecks, Struggling Households in
Washington State Continue to Increase

May 30, 2024, Tacoma, Wash. — Between 2021 and 2022, the number of households in
poverty in Washington increased by 12,316 (remaining at 10% of all households), and
the number of ALICE households increased by 20,597 (remaining at 24% of all

The rise in ALICE households continued a more than decade-long trend in the growth of
this population; ALICE households increased by 44% from 2010–2022, compared to an
18% increase in total households. By 2022, of the 3,064,367 households in Washington,
1,059,901 — 35%* — were below the ALICE Threshold according to a new Update from
United Way of Pierce County and its research partner United For ALICE stands for Asset
Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — earning more than the Federal Poverty Level,
but not enough to afford the basics where they live.

ALICE workers include childcare providers, home health aides, and cashiers — those
working low-wage jobs with little or no savings and one emergency from poverty.

Despite some ups and downs in rates of financial hardship since the end of the Great
Recession, the trend is clear: The number of ALICE households in Washington has been
consistently growing.

Between 2010 and 2022, the total number of households in the state increased by 18%,
households in poverty increased by 1%, and the number of ALICE households increased
by a substantial 44%. By 2022, 10% (312,012) of all households were below the Federal
Poverty Level (FPL), and 24% (747,889) of all households were ALICE — a combined 35%
(1,059,901) of households struggling to make ends meet.

ALICE in the Crosscurrents: An Update on Financial Hardship in Washington shows that
while wages increased, so were costs. For a family of four with an infant and a
preschooler, the basic costs to live and work in Washington, excluding tax credits, rose
from $92,532 in 2021 to $95,244 a year later. Compounding the issue in 2022 was the
loss of up to $15,000 in federal child tax credits and stimulus payments that this family
had access to in 2021.

"There is no doubt, bigger paychecks helped, but inflation and the loss of pandemic
support converged to keep ALICE trapped," said United Way of Pierce County President
and CEO Dona Ponepinto. "This latest data is a reminder that while we have made some
progress, our work is far from over."

Thirty-four percent of the households in Pierce County are below the ALICE threshold.
The household survival budget for two adults and two children in childcare is $98,000
annually, translating into a $49 hourly wage.

The findings in this one year are consistent with a more than a decade-long trend: Since
the end of the Great Recession, despite some ups and downs, the number of ALICE
households in Washington has been steadily growing/stubbornly high. From 2010 to
2022, the total number of households rose by 18%, households in poverty increased by
1% — and the number of ALICE households grew by 44%.

"The data is showing persistent and widespread financial hardship — a red flag that the
current system isn't working for ALICE," said Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., United For ALICE
National Director. "Current policy has not been enough to break down the barriers that
trap ALICE households in financial hardship, from lack of access to housing and child
care that's affordable to inadequate community supports such as broadband internet."

Additional insights from the report include:

  • From 2010 to 2022, people 65 and over made up the fastest-growing age group
  • in Washington—and the group with the largest increase in the number of
  • households struggling to make ends meet.
  • Racial disparities persisted in the rates of financial hardship; 49% of Black and
  • 46% of Hispanic households in Washington were either in poverty or ALICE in
  • 2022, compared to 33% of white households.
  • Food assistance continued to elude many vulnerable families in Washington.
  • Partly due to the SNAP income eligibility level in the state 200% of the Federal
  • Poverty Level), only 43% of all Washington households in poverty and 19% of all
  • ALICE households participated in SNAP in 2022.

Read the report here.


About United Way of Pierce County

United Way of Pierce County has served our community since 1921. Our history is
rooted in partnerships—bringing people from different walks of life together to improve
conditions for children, families and individuals. While that will never change, our role as
a community fundraiser has shifted as the United Way movement has sharpened our
focus to solve key community issues that are preventing people from meeting their full
potential. Today we are leading change by breaking the cycle of poverty in Pierce

About United For ALICE

United For ALICE is a U.S. research organization driving innovation, research and action
to improve life across the country for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained,
Employed) and for all. Through the development of the ALICE measurements, a
comprehensive, unbiased picture of financial hardship has emerged. Harnessing this
data and research on the mismatch between low-paying jobs and the cost of survival,
ALICE partners convene, advocate and collaborate on solutions that promote financial
stability at local, state and national levels. This grassroots ALICE movement, led by
United Way of Northern New Jersey, has spread to 31 states and includes United Ways,
corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware,
Florida, Georgia, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine,
Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina,
Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington,
Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more
information, visit: