ALICE in Focus

ALICE in Focus

1 in 3 Households in our Region

At Crossroads United Way, our mission is to improve the lives of individuals and families by mobilizing the caring power of our communities to advance the common good. The reality that nearly 124,000 people in Elkhart, LaGrange, and Noble Counties are at the ALICE or poverty level underscores the critical need for our efforts. We are dedicated to addressing these challenges through programs that promote education, financial stability, and health—the building blocks for a better life. By focusing on these areas, we aim to create lasting change and provide pathways out of poverty, aligning with our vision of a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Together, we can make a significant impact and help our neighbors achieve financial security and a brighter future.


In Elkhart, LaGrange, and Noble Counties, a significant portion of our community faces financial challenges every day. According to recent data, 42% of residents in these areas are categorized as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) or live below the poverty line. This translates to nearly 124,000 people—approximately 1 in every 3 residents—struggling to afford basic necessities like housing, food, and healthcare. These families work hard but still have difficulty making ends meet, highlighting the need for continued support and resources to help them achieve financial stability.

Who is ALICE?

If you are not familiar with the acronym ALICE, it stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. It's a term that represents households that live between the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and the real cost of living in Indiana (the Household Survival Budget).

The Household Survival Budget accounts for all basic needs in a modern economy (food, transportation, childcare, health care, housing, a basic smartphone plan, taxes, and a small emergency fund), while the FPL is based on a 1960's measure of food costs adjusted for inflation. The Household Survival Budget is also adjusted based on geography (state and locality), household size, and household composition, providing a more accurate picture of local conditions than FPL.

Like the United Way network as a whole, the United for ALICE movement advocates for equity and financial stability for all households, with a special focus on working families. Indiana United Ways and the United Way of Central Indiana are United for ALICE partners.

Struggling households are forced to make tough choices each day. Indiana United Ways developed a Tough Choices Simulation to help others understand what it's like to be the head of an ALICE family. We invite you to try it out and discover what choices you would make.

What it Costs to Survive in Indiana

The ALICE Household Survival Budget is the bare minimum cost of household basics necessary to live and work in the modern economy. The budget is calculated separately for each county and for different household types and is updated as costs and household needs change over time. The ALICE Senior Survival Budget adjusts the Survival Budget to reflect reduced spending on food, as seniors eat less than younger adults; reduced spending on transportation, as seniors travel fewer miles for work and family responsibilities; and because seniors have increased health needs, the Senior Budget reflects increased spending on health care, which outpaces the benefits offered by Medicare.

A family of four in Indiana with two young children would need to make a minimum of $58,428 annually to make ends meet ($29.21/hour). A single senior adult would need to make $27,948 ($13.97/hour) to survive, and a single adult would need to make $24,636 ($12.32).

Populations Most Affected

In Indiana, there are a total of 2,656,794 households, and 39% of them (1,035,333) are below the ALICE Threshold for having sufficient income to meet their basic needs. The highest number of individuals under the ALICE Threshold are Seniors (age 65+), followed by working age individuals ages 25-64. The age group with the highest percentage of individuals falling below the ALICE Threshold is individuals under the age of 25 (66%). This population includes both college students and early career professionals.

· 49% of Seniors struggle to pay monthly bills.

· 33-34% of Working Age individuals ages 25-64 struggle to pay monthly bills.

Single-headed households struggle disproportionately in Indiana, whether they have children or not.

· 76% of Female-Headed Households with children struggle to pay monthly bills

· 53% of Male-Headed Households with children struggle to pay monthly bills.

· 37% of other Single or Cohabiting Households without children struggle to pay monthly bills.

Variances by County

With 39% of households struggling to make ends meet, Indiana ranks 21st in the nation for the percentage of households falling below the ALICE Threshold. But numerous counties within Indiana reflect even higher numbers.

· More than 1 in 2 households in Crawford, Scott, and Vigo Counties fall below the ALICE Threshold.

· 42 Counties have higher than state average percentages of households falling below the ALICE Threshold, including:

Adams, Benton, Blackford, Cass, Clark, Clinton, Daviess, Delaware, Elkhart, Fayette, Fountain, Fulton, Grant, Greene, Henry, Jackson, Jasper, Jay, Jefferson, Knox, Lake, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Miami, Monroe, Orange, Owen, Parke, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, Spencer, St. Joseph, Starke, Sullivan, Switzerland, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh, Vermillion, Washington, and Wayne Counties

· Counties with less than 1 in 3 households falling below the ALICE Threshold include:

Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, LaGrange, Warren, Wells, and Whitley Counties

· Only Hamilton County has fewer than 1 in 4 households falling below the ALICE Threshold.

In addition, the Household Survival Budget varies from a low of $53,028 per year (Washington County) to a high of $76,608 per year (Hamilton County) for a family of 4, and from a low of $22,680 per year (Switzerland County) to a high of $31,644 per year (Hamilton County) for a single adult household. As such, Hamilton County has both the highest cost of living and the lowest percentage of households falling below the ALICE Threshold. For reference, the per capita income in Hamilton County is $52,437, which is just under Indiana's ALICE Threshold. The per capita income for the state of Indiana is $32,537, just over the federal poverty threshold.




United for ALICE

In partnership with United for ALICE (founded by United Way of Northern New Jersey), Indiana United Ways releases regular research briefs, interactive dashboards, and marketing toolkits that highlight ALICE population insights at the national, state, and local level. These resources are available to all Indiana United Ways members in an effort to

1) spread public awareness of issues driving financial stability, health, and childhood/youth success

2) increase compassion toward and understanding of ALICE families

3) advocate for and drive policy changes that narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and enable more families to thrive.

Local United Ways in 28 U.S. States (plus the District of Columbia) collaborate with the United for ALICE effort.