New report and interactive tools reveal that federal poverty data undercounts how many children of all races are growing up amid financial insecurity.
HATTIESBURG, MISS. – The majority of Mississippi’s Black and Hispanic children — 73% and 67% respectively — lived in households that couldn’t afford the basics in 2019, compared to 38% of white children, according to a new report from United Way of Southeast Mississippi and its research partner United For ALICE.
ALICE in Focus: Children reveals the disproportionate impact of financial hardship on the state’s Black and Hispanic children, while also challenging the reliance on federal poverty guidelines for eligibility for assistance programs. The report finds traditional measures of poverty have severely undercounted the number of children of all races ages 18 and younger in Mississippi who are growing up in financially insecure households.
While 27% of all children in the state were deemed in poverty in 2019, the report shows that another 27% lived in families defined as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). ALICE households earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than what it costs to live and work in the modern economy. Combined, 54%, or 382,110, of Mississippi’s children lived in households below the ALICE Threshold, with income that doesn’t meet the basic costs of housing, child care, health care, transportation and a smartphone plan.
In United Way of Southeast Mississippi’s service area — including Forrest, Lamar, Marion and Perry counties — 86% of Black children and 68% of Hispanic children lived below the ALICE threshold, a notable difference from the 45% of White children in that same category.
“Undercounting the number of children who are at risk can have lifelong consequences,” said Tracie Fowler, CEO of United Way of Southeast Mississippi. “Thousands of children are locked out of receiving critical support for stable housing, food, and quality education, all of which can inhibit healthy child development.”
Because ALICE households often earn too much to qualify for public assistance, the report finds that more than ¬222,000 at-risk Mississippi children didn’t access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Mississippi lags behind neighboring states with just 42% of at-risk children enrolled in SNAP, compared with 45% in Louisiana.
Other findings from ALICE in Focus: Children include:
● Having two working parents didn’t guarantee financial stability: Among households with two working adults, 29% of Mississippi children were living in families whose income didn’t meet the cost of basic needs in 2019.
● Among Mississippi households below the ALICE Threshold, families of Black children had the lowest homeownership rate at 38% in comparison with 60% of families of white children.
● Nearly 189,000 children in households earning below the ALICE Threshold had no high-speed internet access at home.
“Having accurate, complete data is the foundation for designing equitable solutions,” said United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “COVID-19 hit ALICE families so much harder than others because they struggle to build savings yet often don’t qualify for financial assistance.”
According to the new research, 42% of Mississippi families below the ALICE Threshold reported in the fall of 2021 that their children “sometimes or often” didn’t have enough to eat, in contrast with 28% of higher income families.
“Because of this research, we can no longer undercount and overlook the needs of ALICE children. Thanks to our partnership with United For ALICE, we have a wealth of new data now available that can help inform equitable solutions to increase access to stable housing and quality health care and education,” said Fowler. “As local nonprofits like United Way use these insights to reassess and identify how we can better serve ALICE households, we challenge our local leaders and state lawmakers to do the same.”
More data is available through the ALICE in Focus: Children interactive data dashboard – which provides filters for regional and local geographies, age, race, disability status, living arrangements and household work status. Visit UnitedForALICE.org/Focus-Children. To download the research brief for Mississippi, click HERE.
ALICE in Focus: Children is the first installment in the ALICE in Focus Research Series, which draws from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS). Each installment in the series will highlight a specific segment within the ALICE demographic. Upcoming topics include people with disabilities and veterans.
ABOUT UNITED FOR ALICE
United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, research and action to improve life across the country for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and for all. Through the development of the ALICE measurements, a comprehensive, unbiased picture of financial hardship has emerged. Harnessing this data and research on the mismatch between low-paying jobs and the cost of survival, ALICE partners convene, advocate and collaborate on solutions that promote financial stability at local, state and national levels. This grassroots ALICE movement, led by United Way of Northern New Jersey, has spread to 24 states and includes United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit: UnitedForALICE.org.