Why poor on Long Island ≠ everywhere else

Is ALICE realistic?

Yes, only one third of Long Island households currently fall under the ALICE threshold.

However, raise your hand (by commenting in our Facebook group) if you live here and are asset limited, income constrained and employed.

When examining the numbers, the ALICE Household Survival Budget might not be realistic as a minimum standard of living a comfortable life on Long Island.

United for ALICE explains their methodology in a fair bit of detail, and it’s logical. Data is pulled from government and public sources. Their housing estimates take into account utilities. Their child care estimates use state data with county breakdowns when available. Their food budget is based on USDA Food Plans with local adjustment when possible.

But still these budget numbers don’t always make sense for Long Islanders, since living here is generally much more expensive than elsewhere in the United States. Using the budget values for a single person, we can attempt to imagine the kind of life an ALICE individual here would live.

The housing estimate is $1,003, inclusive of utilities. Even for a studio or small single-family home, finding a place at that price is difficult – a quick look at Apartments.com brought up only four locations.

A person’s choice of housing will have cascading effects on other aspects of their life as well.

They may not have proper access to a kitchen – which could affect their $6 per day average budget for food. The average cost for a gallon of milk in the U.S. is $3.19 but $3.89 on LI. A loaf of white bread is $2.63 on LI compared to $2.35 elsewhere.

Most LIRR passes cost more than the $215 per month for transportation ALICE budgets. We can also do the math to see how far $215 can go towards gas. A new 2017 vehicle has an average real world fuel economy of 24.7 mpg, and with an average gas cost of $2.90 per gallon, ALICE individuals can’t drive more than 60 miles a day. Plus that distance drops precipitously if the driver has to spend any money on car maintenance or if their car has worse fuel efficiency.

A person’s ability to travel on Long Island will heavily affect their job opportunities, grocer options, and access to healthcare and education opportunities as well.

United for ALICE provides summarized county-level survival budgets here, and also a far more detailed breakdown of county level tables here.

Tell us

In your experience, is the ALICE Survival Budget realistic?

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