News Center > Hard Work Not Working for Nearly Half a Million Arkansas Households
Hard Work Not Working for Nearly Half a Million Arkansas Households
Despite news that our economy is one of the strongest in history, the reality is that 474,000 Arkansas households — 41% of households in the state — are trapped by low wages and rising costs and are unable to afford basic needs.
The ALICE in Arkansas report, released today by Entergy Arkansas and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, paints a surprising picture of the scale of financial barriers experienced by nearly half a million households across the state. Around every corner and in every community, people are struggling to make ends meet. These are hardworking individuals — our neighbors and our loved ones, our teachers and childcare providers, health aids and dental hygienists, mechanics and store clerks — that keep Arkansas’ economic engine running, but they aren’t always sure that they can put food on their own tables.
ALICE in Arkansas is the most comprehensive depiction of financial need in Arkansas to date. It upends conventional views of financial stability based on unemployment and job reports. Standing for Asset Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed, ALICE households have incomes above the Federal Poverty Line but struggle to afford basic household necessities, such as housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care.
“When two out of five households in the state can’t make ends meet, the system is broken,“ says Sherece West-Scantlebury, CEO of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “Working harder – when ALICE is already working two or three jobs – won’t fix it and only diverts attention away from the kinds of decisions and policies required to make good on the American Dream promise.”
Based on the Federal Poverty Line (FPL),17 percent of Arkansas households lived in poverty in 2017 and another 24 percent were ALICE households. That’s a combined 41 percent, or 473,955 households, with income below the ALICE Threshold in 2017. Results of the report show that the total number of Arkansas households that cannot afford basic needs increased 20 percent between 2007 and 2017. During that same time, the cost of basic household necessities in Arkansas increased by 32 percent, far more than the increases in overall inflation and wages.
“The ALICE report highlights the hardships for families whose income puts them above the limit for public assistance but struggle with the cost of child care, health care, and the children’s extra expenses,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said. "This report emphasizes the need to continue our effort to create high-wage jobs and the importance of Arkansas Works health coverage for struggling families."
The report is a project of United For ALICE, a grassroots movement of some 600 United Ways in 21 states, corporations and foundations, all using the same methodology to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide county-by-county and town-level data, and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.
For ALICE, a basic setback — like a car repair or even a minor illness — has the potential to escalate and leave a family vulnerable and spiraling, according to the data.
“At Entergy, we recognize that many hardworking people can’t make ends meet or afford basic needs — including electricity. We support ALICE in Arkansas and this report that helps shine a light on the large number of households struggling and why,” said Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, LLC. “We invest millions in our communities to help improve the quality of life for customers. We believe that we can only be as strong as the communities we serve.”
Across the state, the share of households earning below the ALICE Threshold ranged from 26 percent in Benton County to 64 percent in Lee County. Other findings in the report include:
- The average Household Survival Budget (a calculation created for the ALICE report) for an Arkansas family of four is $46,812 — significantly higher than the federally recognized family poverty level of $24,600. (The Single Household Survival Budget is $18,240, with the FDL set at $12,060.)
- Low-wage jobs continue to dominate the landscape in Arkansas, with more than half (51 percent) of all jobs paying less than $15 per hour.
- In the Household Survival Budget, child care represents an Arkansas family’s greatest expense, at a state average of $761 per month for two children.
- ALICE lives in every county in Arkansas —urban, suburban, and rural — and includes women and men who are single, married, young and old. White households make up the largest demographic — 69% — mirroring Arkansas’ majority-White population. But while there are fewer Black and Hispanic households, they are disproportionately likely to be ALICE.
“At Entergy, we know ALICE well. As many as 74% of the calls handled by our call centers annually are from households that face some level of financial hardship,” said Patty Riddlebarger, Entergy vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility. “These are households that struggle month to month and that are often just one calamity away from financial ruin.”
The ALICE in Arkansas report can provide a basis for policies that help make the Arkansas economy work for everyone. “We need smart decisions and policies that put working families first and benefit the entire state,” says West-Scantlebury. “If Arkansas households earned at least the ALICE survival budget, we’d have $8.4 billion more in taxable wages and $6.9 billion more in consumer spending. Not only is that more money back in your pocket, but it’s more revenue — $2.2. billion to be exact — to invest in small businesses, schools, hospitals, and public transportation.”
To view a copy of the report, visit http://www.ALICEinAR.org/.
About the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation exists to relentlessly pursue economic, educational, social, ethnic, and racial equity for all Arkansans. We believe that building pathways to opportunity requires broad systemic change. This comprehensive approach may take longer to prove impact, but we believe that it has a greater chance to be impactful and sustainable. We look for levers that offer the greatest promise to increase prosperity from one generation to the next. For more information, go to www.wrfoundation.org.
Entergy Arkansas provides electricity to approximately 700,000 customers in 63 counties. Entergy Arkansas is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR), an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including nearly 9,000 megawatts of nuclear power. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.9 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of $11 billion and approximately 13,500 employees. For more information, go to entergy-arkansas.com.