ALICE in Focus on Children

April 4th, 2022

For Immediate Release  12:01 on Monday, April 4, 2022 

Contact: Mary Graham, TAN Lead Staff and CEO of United Ways of Tennessee

Phone:  615-495-9970



New research: 71% of Tennessee’s Black Children Lived in

Financial Hardship Pre-Pandemic

New report and interactive tools reveal that federal poverty data undercounts how many children of all races are growing up amid financial insecurity.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee – The majority of Tennessee’s Black and Hispanic children — 71% and 81% respectively — lived in households that couldn’t afford the basics in 2019, compared to 46% of white children, according to a new report from United Ways of Tennessee, Tennessee Afterschool Network and their 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 18and younger in Tennessee who are growing up in financially insecure households. 

While20% of all children in the state were deemed in poverty in 2019, the report shows that 35% – nearly twice as many – 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, 55% of Tennessee’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 smart phone plan.

Undercounting the number of children who are at risk can have lifelong consequences,” said Mary Graham, TAN Lead Staff and CEO of United Ways of Tennessee. “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 529,000 at-risk children didn’t access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Tennessee lags behind its neighbors with just 36% of at-risk children enrolled in SNAP, compared with 42%in Mississippi, 40% in Alabama and 53% in West Virginia.

Other findings from ALICE in Focus: Children include:

  • Having two working parents didn’t guarantee financial stability: 33% of Tennessee children lived in a home with two working adults whose income didn’t meet the cost of basic needs in 2019.
  • Among households below the ALICE Threshold, families of Black children had the lowest homeownership rate at 24% in comparison with 88% of families of white children.
  • Nearly 270,000children 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, 37% of Tennessee 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 16% of higher income families.

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

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.

AboutUnited Ways of Tennessee   

United Ways of Tennessee is the association of 30 United Ways in our state, coming together for collective action.  As our state's leading community solutions provider, United Way is the driving force behind many initiatives that provide solutions to our most critical needs.  

Our mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of Tennessee United Ways. We are working to advance the common good by focusing on the building blocks for a good life—education, income and health. United Way provides more than $90 million in funding each year to more than 1,200 agencies and programs in Tennessee, and we are directly involved in programs and initiatives that address crucial community needs.

AboutTennessee Afterschool Network

The mission of the Tennessee Afterschool Network is to support children, youth, families, and communities by advocating and building capacity with a unified voice for sustainable investments in safe, healthy, and nurturing afterschool experiences. The Tennessee Afterschool Network accomplishes its mission through a series of initiatives and projects.

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:


Posted by Kelley Nave