Whitewater & Walworth County’s Working Poor, 2020 ALICE® Report

The 2020 ALICE® report, on those who are “asset limited, income constrained [yet] employed” is now available.  These latest data were collected before the recent recession – one can be sadly confident that hardship reaches farther now.

For Wisconsin, 11% of households were below the poverty level, and 34% (including those below the poverty level) were asset limited.

For Walworth County, 9.5% of households were below the poverty level, and 34% (including those below the poverty level) were asset limited.

For Whitewater 41% of households (of any kind) were below the poverty level, and 59% (including those below the poverty level) were asset limited. Looking only at households with minor children related to the householder, one finds that 23% of households in Whitewater were below the poverty level (relying on the same 2018 American Community Survey five-year estimates that ALICE® does for populations under 20,000).  Some additional households with minor children would also be asset limited, although the American Community Survey does not present that number for a community of Whitewater’s size. Using a households-with-minor-children measurement focuses on those particularly vulnerable.

A portion of the executive summary and the full report appear below —

From 2010 to 2018, Wisconsin showed steady economic improvements according to traditional measures. Unemployment in the state and across the U.S. fell to
historic lows, GDP grew, and wages rose slightly. Yet in 2018, eight years after the end of the Great Recession, 34% of Wisconsin’s 2,359,857 households still struggled to make ends meet. And while 11% of these households were living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), another 23% — more than twice as many — were ALICE households: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These households earned above the FPL, but not enough to afford basic household necessities.


The number of ALICE households in Wisconsin has increased as a result of rising costs and stagnant wages. There are more ALICE households than households in poverty, and the number of ALICE households is increasing at a faster rate. The FPL, with its minimal and uniform national estimate of the cost of living, far underestimates the number of households that cannot afford to live and work in the modern economy. In Wisconsin, the percentage of households that were ALICE rose from 17% in 2007 to 23% in 2018. By contrast, those in poverty increased from 10% of all households in 2007 to 13% by 2014, before dipping slightly to comprise 11% of all households in 2018.This Report provides critical measures that assess Wisconsin’s economy from four perspectives: They track financial hardship over time and across demographic groups; quantify the basic cost of living in Wisconsin; assess job trends; and identify gaps in assistance and community resources. These measures also debunk assumptions and stereotypes about low-income workers and families. ALICE households are as diverse as the general population, composed of people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities, living in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

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