Despite the ALICE acronym — “Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed”— the report does not measure the assets, income constraints or employment levels of households.
The ALICE project claims to study households and people who are “asset limited, income constrained and employed,” hence the acronym. It argues this is important because people in this group may be falling through the cracks of the conventional poverty relief efforts by federal, state and local governments and by charitable organizations like United Way.
But the ALICE reports do not consider these people’s assets, nor how constrained their incomes are nor their employment status. So, when the latest report claims that 25% of Michigan households meet the definition of ALICE, for example, it does not mean that these people actually have limited assets, income constraints or are employed. The report simply assumes that they have these characteristics.
To be clear, some households categorized as ALICE may have these characteristics. The problem is that these reports do not assess to what extent this is true for the households it labels ALICE. As explained in the next section, the reports simply assume that all households with incomes below a specified amount have these characteristics. Without a doubt, many households the reports labels ALICE do not meet this definition.