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You are about to put yourself in the shoes of a typical ALICE® family. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE families are those that have earnings above the Federal Poverty Level, but are unable to meet a survival budget. In other words, they are working, earning and paying taxes, but struggling each month to make ends meet. Almost 20 percent of Iowa families are ALICE, when ALICE is combined with the Iowans living below the Federal Poverty Level, we find more than 30% of Iowa households are experiencing financial hardship.

For the next few minutes, you’ll experience some of the tough choices that these families have to make every single day to reach the end of each month. You’ll learn more about the types of struggles faced in Iowa and how United Ways are raising awareness of these issues.

You and your partner have two small children — one infant and one preschooler. After an unexpected layoff at your place of employment, you find yourself scrambling to find a new job. Your partner’s monthly earnings are $2000.

But there is some good news. You have three real job opportunities. The interviews went well, so you have good reason to be optimistic.

Choose your Job

  • Grocery Stockroom Associate

    $9.25/hour, 3rd shift, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.,
    5 days a week

    68% of Iowa jobs pay less than $20/hour; 48% of those pay between $10 - $15 per hour. A family of four needs to earn more than $24 per hour to afford a barebones household budget. Learn More

    Workers who hold third-shift jobs are often faced with difficulty finding child care and transportation. ALICE workers hold many important jobs in our community like: Retail Sales, Waitstaff, Home Health Aides, Office Clerks, Receptionists, Teacher Assistants and Child Care Workers. Only 56 percent of service sector jobs pay enough to support the average Iowa family Household Survival Budget of $46,680. Close

  • Retail Salesperson

    $9.00/hour, Part-time, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.,
    4 days a week

    There are more than 47,500 retail salesperson jobs in Iowa, paying an average of $9.13 per hour. A family of four needs to earn more than $24 per hour to afford a barebones household budget. Learn More

    ALICE workers hold many important jobs in our community like: Retail Sales, Waitstaff, Home Health Aides, Office Clerks, Receptionists, Teacher Assistants and Child Care Workers. Only 56 percent of service sector jobs pay enough to support the average Iowa family Household Survival Budget of $46,680. Close

  • Waitstaff at Local Restaurant

    $6.50/hour plus tips, Full-time evenings, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.,
    5 days a week

    68% of Iowa jobs pay less than $20/hour; 48% of those pay between $10 - $15 per hour. A family of four needs to earn more than $24 per hour to afford a barebones household budget. Learn More

    ALICE workers hold many important jobs in our community like: Retail Sales, Waitstaff, Home Health Aides, Office Clerks, Receptionists, Teacher Assistants and Child Care Workers. Only 56 percent of service sector jobs pay enough to support the average Iowa family Household Survival Budget of $46,680. Close

Decide where you're going to live

  • Single-Family Homeowner

    Small house with 3 bedrooms

    ALICE households are often forced to spend more than 35% of their income on rent/mortgage and utility costs. This requires them to make tough choices, often forgoing basic necessities such as food, medicine and in some cases, heat. Learn More

    48% of Iowa households with income below the ALICE Threshold are homeowners. Of those, 21% spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. Close

  • Apartment Rental 1

    2-bedroom unit in a large complex

    ALICE households are often forced to spend more than 35% of their income on rent/mortgage and utility costs. This requires them to make tough choices, often forgoing basic necessities such as food, medicine and in some cases, heat. Learn More

    44% of renters spend more than 30% of their household income on rent. Close

  • Apartment Rental 2

    2-bedroom unit in an old house

    ALICE households are often forced to spend more than 35% of their income on rent/mortgage and utility costs. This requires them to make tough choices, often forgoing basic necessities such as food, medicine and in some cases, heat. Learn More

    44% of renters spend more than 30% of their household income on rent. Close

Choose your Childcare

  • Accredited Center-Based Childcare

    Your children are cared for in a high-quality center with social development and a structured early learning curriculum.

    Iowa has the highest percentage in the nation (76%) of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce making child care essential for most families. Learn More

    Child care is often the single largest expense for ALICE families. The cost of child care in Iowa increased by 10 percent through and after the Great Recession, from 2007 to 2014. These increases have made child care costs prohibitive for many ALICE families, sometimes forcing one parent out of the workforce. Close

  • Licensed Home-Based Childcare

    Your children are cared for by a licensed individual with other children.

    Iowa has the highest percentage in the nation (76%) of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce making child care essential for most families. Learn More

    Child care is often the single largest expense for ALICE families. The cost of child care in Iowa increased by 10 percent through and after the Great Recession, from 2007 to 2014. These increases have made child care costs prohibitive for many ALICE families, sometimes forcing one parent out of the workforce. Close

  • Family, Friends and Neighbors

    Your children are watched in your home or theirs, requiring you to cover basic expenses.

    Iowa has the highest percentage in the nation (76%) of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce making child care essential for most families. Reliability and quality may vary when choosing friends and family to watch your children. Learn More

    Child care is often the single largest expense for ALICE families. The cost of child care in Iowa increased by 10 percent through and after the Great Recession, from 2007 to 2014. These increases have made child care costs prohibitive for many ALICE families, sometimes forcing one parent out of the workforce. Close

Choose your Transportation

  • Car

    You and your partner have one car that is paid for. You have to pay for insurance and gas every month.

    Most households in Iowa own a vehicle because owning a car is essential for work, but many ALICE households need to borrow money in order to buy a vehicle. The auto debt per capita in Iowa is the 7th- highest in the country.

  • Bus

    You and your partner each have a monthly bus pass.

    There is no public transportation in most Iowa counties making it essential for the majority households to have a car. Most households in Iowa own a vehicle but the median value is $4000 making it less reliable to operate.

Choose your Food

  • Fresh

    All of the freshest and healthiest options available to you including name brands

    In Iowa, 90,000 households have limited access to safe and nutritious foods. Learn More

    Many ALICE families make too much money for SNAP benefits (food stamps) but cannot afford to purchase enough healthy food for nourishing meals. Additionally, 50% of rural Iowans live more than 10 miles from a grocery store forcing them to shop at convenience stores and limiting their access to affordable and fresh food options. Close

  • Mix

    A combination of fresh and frozen options with a mix of name brands and bargain brands

    In Iowa, 90,000 households have limited access to safe and nutritious foods. Learn More

    Many ALICE families make too much money for SNAP benefits (food stamps) but cannot afford to purchase enough healthy food for nourishing meals. Additionally, 50% of rural Iowans live more than 10 miles from a grocery store forcing them to shop at convenience stores and limiting their access to affordable and fresh food options. Close

  • Low Cost

    Limited amounts of healthy options with lots of frozen and processed foods and bargain brands

    In Iowa, 1 in 8 people struggles with hunger. Learn More

    Many ALICE families make too much money for SNAP benefits (food stamps) but cannot afford to purchase enough healthy food for nourishing meals. Additionally, 50% of rural Iowans live more than 10 miles from a grocery store forcing them to shop at convenience stores and limiting their access to affordable and fresh food options. Close