Served, Sacrificed, Yet Struggling

1 in 4 NJ Veterans Living in Financial Hardship

They’ve served and sacrificed for our country yet nearly one quarter — 24% — of New Jersey’s 294,717 veterans struggle to afford the basics, according to the latest report from our research engine United For ALICE.


In 2019, while 4% of the state’s veterans were deemed in poverty, 20% — five times as many — were 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, 24% of New Jersey’s veterans were below the ALICE Threshold of Financial Survival, with income that doesn’t meet the basic costs of housing, child care, health care, transportation and a smartphone plan.


“Our freedom comes with the responsibility to ensure that those who have served and sacrificed don’t struggle to make ends meet once they return home,” said United Way of Northern New Jersey CEO Kiran Handa Gaudioso. “Although veterans do have additional supports not afforded nonveterans, clearly there’s still room for improvement.”


The ALICE in Focus: Veterans report and interactive tools reveal that while veterans show lower rates of financial hardship than individuals who never served, New Jersey’s veterans face some tougher financial hurdles than their counterparts in New York and Connecticut.


For example, New Jersey’s veterans earning below the ALICE Threshold had the highest rate in the country — 51% — for spending more than 35% of their income on a mortgage, utilities, tax and insurance. That’s in comparison with 39% in New York and 50% in Connecticut. And for renters, New Jersey had the third highest rate in the country for struggling veterans being rent burdened at 64%, behind Nevada at 71% and Hawaii at 66%.


In addition, New Jersey’s financially insecure veterans had the lowest participation rate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with just 13% accessing the supports for food insecurity, in comparison with 22% in New York and 17% in Connecticut.


Nonetheless, there are some lessons to be learned from the data, said United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. The state’s veterans are slightly better off than nonveterans with 24% struggling to make ends meet compared to 28% of adults who never served.


“Veterans have higher rates of full-time employment, are more likely to be homeowners and have more comprehensive health insurance coverage and disability benefits,” Hoopes said. “This suggests that the supports afforded veterans are making a difference and could provide invaluable insights for developing strategies that help nonveterans facing financial hardship.”


Other findings from ALICE in Focus: Veterans include:

  • Racial and ethnic inequities persist with 32% of Black veterans and 29% of Hispanic veterans living below the ALICE Threshold compared to 23% of white veterans and 21% of Asian veterans.

  • Veterans with disabilities struggled more to afford the basics — 30%—compared to 22% of veterans without disabilities.

  • Inequities also appear for Black and Hispanic veterans with disabilities — 42% and 46% lived below the ALICE Threshold respectively in comparison with 28% of white veterans with disabilities.

  • While working, veterans still experience financial hardship with 12% of veterans with full-time employment living below the ALICE Threshold and 38% of veterans working part time.

  • Of veterans who graduated high school but had not completed post-secondary education, 28% were living below the ALICE Threshold.

More data is available through the ALICE in Focus: Veterans interactive data dashboard, which provides filters for regional and local geographies, age, race, disability status, living arrangements, work status and proximity to military bases. Visit UnitedForALICE.org/Focus-Veterans.


ALICE in Focus: Veterans marks the third 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 highlights a specific segment within the ALICE demographic. The other installments focused on children and people with disabilities.


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