Newsroom Update

Despite Bigger Paychecks, Struggling Households in Virginia Continue to Increase

New ALICE Update shows wage growth was no match for inflation after a decade of falling behind

RICHMOND, Va. (May 22, 2024) – Though wages for jobs have risen across the country at the fastest rate in four decades, the number of households struggling to get by in Virginia grew by more than 66,000 from 2021 to 2022.

As a result, a total of 1,337,175 Virginia households or 40% were living paycheck to paycheck, according to a new Update from United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg and its research partner United For ALICE. 

That calculation includes the 359,347 Virginia households in poverty as well as another 977,828 defined as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), earning above the Federal Poverty Level but less than what’s needed to survive in the current economy. ALICE workers include childcare providers, home health aides and cashiers — those working low-wage jobs, with little or no savings and one emergency from poverty. 

ALICE in the Crosscurrents: An Update on Financial Hardship in Virginia shows that while wages were increasing, so too were costs. For a family of four with an infant and a preschooler, the basic costs to live and work in Virginia, excluding tax credits, rose from $70,788 in 2021 to $98,040 a year later. Compounding the issue in 2022 was the loss of up to $15,000 in federal child tax credits and stimulus payments that families had access to in 2021. 

There is no doubt, bigger paychecks helped, but inflation and the loss of pandemic supports converged to keep ALICE trapped,” said United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg President & CEO Barbara Couto Sipe. “This latest data is a reminder that while we have made some progress, there is much more to do to create economic mobility for all.” 

The findings in this one-year period are consistent with a more than decade-long trend: Since the end of the Great Recession, despite some ups and downs, the number of ALICE households in Virginia has been steadily growing/stubbornly high. From 2010 to 2022, the total number of households rose by 11%, households in poverty increased by 16% — and the number of ALICE households grew by 9%. 

The data is showing persistent and widespread financial hardship — a red flag that the current system isn’t working for ALICE,” said Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., United For ALICE National Director. “Current policy has not been enough to break down the barriers that trap ALICE households in financial hardship, from lack of access to housing and childcare that’s affordable, to inadequate community supports such as broadband internet.” 

Additional insights include: 

  • From 2010 to 2022, people age 65 and over made up the fastest-growing age group in Virginia — and the group with the largest increase (35%) in the number of households struggling to make ends meet. 
  • Racial disparities persisted in the rates of financial hardship; 54% of Black and 48% of Hispanic households in Virginia were either in poverty or ALICE in 2022, compared to 36% of white households. 
  • Food assistance continued to elude many vulnerable families in Virginia. Partly due to the SNAP income eligibility level in the state (200% of the Federal Poverty Level), only 38% of all Virginia households in poverty and 15% of all ALICE households participated in SNAP in 2022. 

To read the Update and access online, interactive dashboards that provide data on financial hardship at the state, county and local levels, visit

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About United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg

United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg is dedicated to improving lives and mobilizing the caring power of communities. Working hand in hand with nonprofit partners, donors, and volunteers, United Way unites resources from the community to deliver effective programs and initiatives that create positive, lasting change. This reach extends across 13 diverse localities, encompassing the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, Hopewell, and Colonial Heights, as well as the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Powhatan and Prince George. To learn more, visit []

About United For ALICE

United For ALICE is a U.S. research organization driving 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 31 states and includes United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE.  []

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