FACT: When nearly a half million households across the state can’t make ends meet, the system is broken.

MYTH: Struggling families just need to work.

FACT: Low wages, rising household costs and disinvestments in opportunity keep many Arkansas families from putting food on the table and saving for a better future.

MYTH: Economic growth shows everyone is getting ahead.

FACT: Telling Arkansans to work harder – when many are already working two or three jobs – won’t fix this broken system and only distracts us from the policies that keep many families trapped in financial insecurity.

MYTH: You earn what you deserve.

The ABCs of Equity spell out why equity is in Arkansas's future.

The data is clear. When ALICE prospers, Arkansas prospers.


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’s economic engine running, but they aren’t always sure that they can put food on their own tables. 

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, childcare, food, transportation, and healthcare.

ALICE in Arkansas research was conducted with support from Entergy Arkansas, United Ways across the state, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. 

We need an economy that works for all Arkansans.

Right now, it’s not.  


ALICE in Arkansas press event 

41% of households in Arkansas — that’s 474,000 — earn below the ALICE threshold.

ALICE lives in every county in Arkansas — urban, suburban, and rural — and includes women and men — single, married, young, and old — of all races and ethnicities that all contribute to Arkansas’s economy by earning, spending, and paying taxes.

The cost of basic household necessities increased by 32% from 2007 to 2017, far more than the increases in overall inflation and wages.

Increased cost of living — combined with low wages, reduced work hours, and depleted savings — have led to an uneven economic recovery in Arkansas. Childcare represents an Arkansas family’s greatest expense, at a state average of $761 per month for two children.

60% of all people who are employed in Arkansas work hourly jobs, an increase of 14% over the last 10 years.

Low-wage jobs are projected to dominate the state’s economy for the foreseeable future. As more and more companies move to hourly wage work with little to no benefits, Arkansans will have fewer opportunities to plan and save.

What is the HOUSEHOLD SURVIVAL BUDGET in your community?  

The basic cost of living per year in Arkansas is $46K for a family of 4 and $18K for a single adult. This is much different than Federal Poverty Line estimates which are: $25K for a family and $12K for singles. 

Outdated poverty measurements such as the Federal Poverty Line have obscured the scale of financial distress in Arkansas, making it difficult for Arkansas families to access the support they need to become financially stable.

Household Survival Budget is an estimate of the total cost of household essentials – housing, childcare, food, transportation, technology, and healthcare, plus taxes and a 10% contingency. It is calculated separately for each county and for six different household types.

The ALICE Threshold represents the minimum income level necessary based on the Household Survival Budget. Households below the Threshold include both ALICE households and those living in poverty.

ALICE stats in graphic format

The ALICE in Arkansas report can provide a basis for policies that help make the Arkansas economy work for everyone.


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.

— Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury, CEO, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

This is our opportunity

ALICE is no longer invisible and should be at the center of all conversations and decisions about the future of Arkansas. The false narrative of hard work and personal responsibility won’t fix this broken system. When we #SeeALICE and acknowledge the barriers working families face every day, we can mobilize our voices, our resources, our advocacy, and our convening power to make this economy work for everyone.

Arkansas will have a strong economy when working Arkansans earn a living wage and have opportunities to save for a better future, such as paying lower taxes and training for higher skilled, and higher wage jobs. Whether you work in government, business, education, healthcare, or the community, you can #StandUpForALICE by:

  • Advocating for policies and practices that support living wages
  • Creating pathways for workers to learn more and earn more
  • Removing barriers to credit and entrepreneurialism
  • Making childcare more affordable for young families
  • Increasing the supply of affordable housing

White households make up the largest demographic of ALICE households — 69% — mirroring Arkansas’s majority-white population. But while there are fewer black and Hispanic households, they are disproportionately likely to be ALICE.

By 2050, people of color will represent nearly 46% of the working age population in Arkansas (compared to a third today), yet historic and systemic discrimination continues to restrict their access to wealth-building opportunities.

Consider these facts:

  • In the last three years, business owners of color applied for lending at a disproportionately lower rate than white individuals but were denied lending at a higher rate
  • Sixteen percent of Arkansas businesses are owned by people of color; yet black-owned and Hispanic-owned businesses received less than 2% of the $1 billion loan dollars awarded between 2015 to 2019
  • Moreover, black Arkansans are incarcerated at six times the rate of white individuals, preventing them from even participating in the workforce

Standing up for ALICE means acknowledging and disrupting discriminatory practices that exacerbate historic barriers to wealth among communities of color. When we prioritize ALICE and target those most negatively impacted, we ensure a stable workforce that can meet future demands and a strong consumer base that supports healthy families, schools, and communities.