UNITED FOR ALICE - United Way of Pierce County



Many individuals and families who have a job—even two or three—are doing everything they can to make ends meet yet struggle to get by each month. ALICE represents the growing number of households who are above the Federal Poverty Line, do not qualify for many government assistance programs, and who are working yet cannot afford basic necessities to remain stable and self-sufficient.

We all know people who are ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — earning more than the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford the basics where they live. ALICE workers were celebrated as essential heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they do not earn enough to support their own families.

ALICE households and households in poverty are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent — choices that have long-term consequences not only for their families, but for all.




ALICE has no safety net
for emergencies 



ALICE's income falls short of
basic necessities




ALICE is working, but can't
afford the cost of living

This ALICE Report provides the first look at the extent of financial hardship in Washington using ALICE metrics since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The pandemic has disrupted longstanding patterns of how and where people live, work, study, save, and spend their time. And the story of ALICE and the pandemic is still unfolding as this Report is being written, amid an ongoing health crisis and an economic and public policy landscape that continues to shift. In a time of change, United For ALICE remains committed to providing the most up-to-date local data possible on financial hardship in Washington and across the U.S.

The number of households in financial hardship in Washington continues to be undercounted in official measures. According 
to the FPL, 10% of households in Washington (299,696) were in poverty in 2021. Yet United For ALICE data shows that another 24% (727,29
households) — more than twice as many — were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). ALICE households earn above the FPL, but not enough to afford the basics in the communities where they live.

The reality is that of the 3 million households in Washington, 1,026,988 — 34% — had income below the ALICE Threshold of Financial Survival in 2021. These included both households in poverty and ALICE households.

The crux of the problem is a mismatch between earnings and the cost of basics, especially for seniors and households with children. For example, 38% of cashiers (one of the most common occupations in Washington) were below the Threshold in 2021. These workers earned a median hourly wage of $14.66 — just enough to cover the ALICE Household Survival Budget for a single adult employed full time ($13.61 per hour), yet not enough for a single senior or a family with children, even with two adults working full time at that wage (combined wage of $38.66 per hour). From 2019 to 2021, the cost of basics increased across Washington and remained well above the FPL. For a family of four in 2021, the FPL was $26,500 while the ALICE Household Survival Budget was $77,328. Between 2019 and 2021, the average annual costs (excluding taxes) increased
17% for a single adult, 13% for a single senior, and 18% for a family of four.

Pic 1 AlicePic 2 Alicepic 3 Alice

Counties are the core geography for ALICE data: They reveal variations often masked by statewide averages, and the data is reported regularly and reliably. 

Use the tool below to see an overview of financial hardship, county by county. The County Profile highlights key aspects of county economies across the state, including details related to county demographics, the cost of living, and the labor landscape.


ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county. While conditions have improved for some households, many continue to struggle, especially as wages fail to keep pace with the rising cost of household essentials (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and a basic smartphone plan). Households below the ALICE Threshold — ALICE households plus those in poverty — can’t afford the essentials.




Financial Hardship Has Changed Over Time in Pierce County

As circumstances change, households may find themselves below or above the ALICE Threshold at different times. Use the buttons below to switch between ALICE data over time by number and percentage.


Financial Hardship is Not Equally Distributed

By total number, groups with the largest population of households below the ALICE Threshold tend to also be in the largest demographic groups. However, when looking at the proportion of each group that is below the ALICE Threshold, it is clear that some groups are more likely to be ALICE than others.

Number Households

Percentage of Households 2022






There were also differences in financial hardship by household type and age of householder.


The Cost of Basics Outpaces Wages

The Household Survival Budget reflects the minimum cost to live and work in the current economy and includes housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology, and taxes. It does not include savings for emergencies or future goals like college or retirement. In 2022, household costs in every county in Washington were well above the Federal Poverty Level of $13,590 for a single adult and $27,750 for a family of four.


The Labor Landscape is Challenging for ALICE Workers

A small portion of adults (16 years and older) in Pierce County were unemployed and a large number were working in 2022. However, a substantial portion of both full and part-time workers are paid by the hour; these workers are more likely to have fluctuations in income and less likely to receive benefits.

Labor Status, Population 16 and Over, Pierce County, Washington, 2022


Financial Hardship Varies by Location in Pierce County

There is substantial variation in the number of households who live below the ALICE Threshold within the county. Explore the map and table below to learn more. The map is shaded to show the percentage of households that are below the ALICE Threshold (poverty-level and ALICE households combined). The darker the blue, the higher the percentage.