Research Center • District of Columbia
We all know people who are ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — earning more than the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford the basics where they live. ALICE workers were celebrated as essential heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they do not earn enough to support their own families.
ALICE households and households in poverty are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent — choices that have long-term consequences not only for their families, but for all.
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District of Columbia
Labor Force 2021
ALICE workers play an essential role in the state economy but still struggle to support their households. This page highlights the challenges ALICE workers face, including the prevalence of low-wage jobs, a growing dependence on hourly wages, and a historically high number of adults out of the labor force.
Common Jobs in the District of Columbia Have a High Percentage of ALICE Workers
A key contributor to the number of ALICE households in the District of Columbia is the fundamental mismatch between the cost of living and what jobs pay.
Top Occupations, Employment, Wages, and Percentage Below ALICE Threshold, District of Columbia, 2021
Fewer District of Columbia Workers are Employed Full Time With a Salary
Full-time salaried work brings greater financial stability, yet a large (and growing) number of workers are paid hourly. Workers who are paid by the hour are more likely to have fluctuations in income due to frequent schedule changes and variable hours, and they are less likely to receive benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, family leave, or retirement benefits.
In addition, a historically high number of workers are out of the labor force. This has helped keep wages low: When more workers are available, employers have less incentive to raise wages to attract employees. Many workers are out of the labor force due to retirement; other reasons include school, health issues/disability, and family caregiving responsibilities.
The figure below shows an overview of the labor status of adults over the age of 16.