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ALICE Children Undercounted No More

New report and interactive tools reveal how many children are growing up amid financial insecurity

No child should grow up without access to the resources and opportunity to meet their potential.

And yet, new ALICE in Focus: Children research debuting today reveals that nearly 790,000 New Jersey children — 41% — live in financially insecure households. These families often face

difficult trade-offs that can affect a child’s health, education and future well-being.

This new research shows that growing up in financial hardship isn’t limited to the 12% of New Jersey’s children whose families earned at or below the Federal Poverty Level, pre-pandemic. Another 29% were within struggling ALICE households. ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families earn above the federal poverty level but too little to afford the basics.

For the state’s Black and Hispanic children, the stakes are even higher — 63% and 60% respectively are living in households that cannot afford the basics.

“Undercounting the number of children who are at risk can have lifelong consequences,” said United Way of Northern New Jersey CEO Kiran Handa Gaudioso. “Thousands of children are locked out of receiving critical supports 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 546,000 at-risk children didn’t access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. New Jersey lags behind its neighbors with just 31% of at-risk children enrolled in SNAP, compared with 36% in New York, 37% in Connecticut and 47% in Pennsylvania.

Through United Way of Northern New Jersey's research arm, United For ALICE, a wealth of new data is now available that can help inform equitable solutions to increase access to stable housing and quality health care and education. Click here to discover interactive online dashboards as well as an overview research brief.

Other findings from ALICE in Focus: Children include:

  • Having two working parents didn’t guarantee financial stability: 22% of New Jersey children living in a home with two adults in the labor force were still below the ALICE Threshold in 2019.

  • Among households below the ALICE Threshold, families of Black children had the lowest homeownership rate at 20% in comparison with 56% of families of white children.

  • Nearly 196,000 children in households earning below the ALICE Threshold had no high-speed internet access at home.

  • Half of New Jersey 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 32% of higher income households.

“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.”

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