More than One in Three Lehigh Valley Families Living Paycheck to Paycheck

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New report sheds light on hidden and growing crisis

Allentown, PA, December 11, 2019 – All across our region, families are working hard, but still walking a financial tightrope. A new statewide project called ALICE® revealed that more than one in three families in our region are struggling to afford the barebones essentials. This data project was launched by the United Way of Pennsylvania and supported by a network of statewide United Ways, including the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.

ALICE stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed. This term describes households who are above the federal poverty level, but who don’t make enough money for their basic needs. They are working and paying taxes, but not earning enough to be financially stable.

“ALICE workers are crucial to our economy, yet they are struggling to survive,” said Priscilla Rosado, Assistant Director of Food Access and Emergency Services at the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. “They are health care workers, office workers, retail staff, or the people who take care of our children and elderly. They live in every county, city, town, and borough in our region.”

The latest ALICE data, collected in 2017, shows that 38% of households in the Greater Lehigh Valley are struggling to afford basic needs. In Lehigh County for example, 11% of households are at or below the federal poverty level, and 26% of households are ALICE – making too much income to qualify for aid, but not enough to become financially stable. In some municipalities, including Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, more than 50% of households are struggling to make ends meet.

The ALICE data project also provides data on how much it actually costs to live in each county, city and town in Pennsylvania. For a family of four with one preschooler and one infant living in Lehigh County, a basic survival budget is $64,800. This budget is truly barebones – it doesn’t include any extra for a cell phone, or cable or car repairs. For this family of four to achieve a degree of financial security, their yearly household income would need to be $105,768.

“The median household income in Lehigh County is $60,871. If it costs over $100,000 a year for a family of four with small children to be financially stable in Lehigh County, we are looking at a huge gap,” said Rosado. “The ALICE data project was designed to start a dialogue in our community.  If such a large number of our neighbors are experiencing economic hardship, how can our region thrive? Now that we know the extent of the issue, the challenge is for all of us to come together to create innovate solutions for how we can help our community members continue on their path to financial sustainability.”

United Ways across Pennsylvania are working to mobilize their communities to champion ALICE families through policy and programs. In the Lehigh Valley and Carbon County, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley is working to support ALICE families by providing information on resources via 211, ensuring that people have access to nutritious food, that seniors can thrive in their homes, and that kids have opportunities to be successful in school.

“ALICE is the keystone of the Pennsylvania economy,” said Kristen Rotz, president of the United Way of Pennsylvania. “ALICE represents a large portion of the purchasing power of Pennsylvania households. All Pennsylvanians lean on ALICE for support on a daily basis. ALICE owns small businesses, takes care of our children in child care, works in the hospitality industry, cares for our aging parents and grandparents and serves us in grocery stores, banks, and retail stores.  Now that we are aware of the struggles ALICE faces, we must come together to help ALICE take steps toward lasting financial stability.”

More information and full reports are available at

Mission of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley
The mission of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley is to provide the leadership, convene the partnerships, and develop the resources and solutions that improve our community.  We remain committed to these goals and sincerely appreciate the continued support of partners, program providers and donors throughout the Lehigh Valley.


Information provided to TVL by:
Laura McHugh    
Director, Communications and Media Relations 
United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley
Celebrating 100 years of service to the Lehigh Valley.
1110 American Parkway NE  Suite F-120  Allentown, PA 18109