ALICE in our Community

Financial Struggles Increase Despite Wage Growth in Central Illinois

ALICE Update: Wage Increases Outpaced by Inflation Over the Past Decade

Share Your Story:

United Way of Central Illinois in partnership with United for ALICE is collecting audio testimonials from ALICE individuals about the difficult financial choices they face today due to high living costs and ongoing inflation. Record your story at


Growing Financial Hardship in Illinois

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 include

  • Child care providers
  • Home health aides
  • Cashiers

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.

Despite significant wage growth for the lowest-paid jobs, the number of struggling households in Illinois increased by over $49,875 from 2021 to 2022. Currently; 1,839,913 households, or 37% are living paycheck to paycheck. This alarming data comes from the latest update by United for ALICE.


Rising Costs Outpace Wage Growth

Key Findings from ALICE in the Crosscurrents: An Update on Financial Hardship in Illinois
  • For a family of four with an infant and a preschooler, the basic cost of living in Illinois rose from $77,796 in 2021 to $81,420 in 2022.
  • In 2022, families lost up to $15,000 in federal child tax credits and stimulus payments compared to 2021.

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


Factors Affecting Financial Stability

The cost of living varies widely across different states, regions, and counties. A household's ability to afford basic expenses depends not only on the cost of living but also their earning potential.

To understand how different wage levels impact an ALICE household's ability to afford a bare-bones budget, the ALICE Household Survival Budget and ALICE Wage Tool can be used.

ALICE Household Survival Budget

The ALICE Household Survival Budget estimates the minimum cost of necessities:

  • Housing
  • Child Care
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Health Care
  • Technology
  • Taxes

It also includes a 10% contingency fund for miscellaneous expenses.


The ALICE Wage Tool helps identify where certain wages can support the Household Survival Budget for different household types.


  • Wage: $9 per hour
  • Household type: Family of three (two workers and one child)
  • Outcome: Two adults working full time, year round at $9 per hour cannot support basic household costs in any U.S. city


  • Wage: $14 per hour
  • Household type: Family of three (two workers and one child)
  • Outcome: Two adults working full-time, year round at $14 per hour can afford the Household Survival Budget in 53% of U.S. counties.

This tool provides insights into how wage levels can affect the ability of ALICE households to meet their basic needs.


United Way's Efforts to Support ALICE Households

United Way of Central Illinois is dedicated to addressing the financial challenges faced by ALICE households through various initiatives:

1. Financial Education and Support Programs

Providing resources and funding grant partners to help families manage their finances, build savings, and plan for emergencies.

2. Advocacy for Policy Changes:

United Way of Illinois, the statewide association of local United Way agencies, works to advocate for policies that support affordable housing, child care, healthcare, and access to broadband internet.

3. Community Investment:

Funding local programs that offer critical services such as job training, food assistance, and emergency financial aid.

4. Collaboration with Partners:

Partnering with businesses, community organizations, and volunteers to create a network of support for ALICE households, ensuring they have access to the resources they need.

5. Tangible Support Services:

Offering 24/7/365 support through our 2-1-1 helpline number, individuals can find resources and assistance when they need it.