Despite Bigger Paychecks, Struggling Households on the Lakeshore Continue to Increase

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

Muskegon, Newaygo, and Oceana Counties – Though wages for the lowest paid jobs have risen across the country at the fastest rate in four decades, the number of households struggling to get by in Muskegon, Newaygo, and Oceana Counties grew by nearly 6.5% (2,676 households) from 2021 to 2022. As a result, a total of 43,743 households or 45% were living paycheck to paycheck, according to a new Update from United Way of the Lakeshore and its research partner United For ALICE.

That calculation includes the 13,421 households in poverty as well as another 30,322 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 child care 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 Michigan 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 on the Lakeshore, excluding tax credits, rose from $56,624 in 2021 to $70,968 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 this family 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 Christine Robere, CEO of United Way of Lakeshore. “This latest data is a reminder that while we have made some progress — including expanding our state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and funding 2-1-1, a help line for any resident struggling with the costs of basic needs — our work is far from over.”

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 Michigan has been steadily growing. From 2010 to 2022, the total number of households rose by 6%, households in poverty decreased by 6% — and the number of ALICE households grew by 20%.

“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 child care 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 on the Lakeshore — and the group with the largest increase of 880 households struggling to make ends meet.
Racial disparities persisted in the rates of financial hardship; 63% of Black and 44% of Hispanic households on the Lakeshore were either in poverty or ALICE in 2022, compared to 43% of white households.
Food assistance continued to elude many vulnerable families in Michigan. Partly due to the SNAP income eligibility level in the state (200% of the Federal Poverty Level), only 46% of all Michigan households in poverty and 20% 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
Invitation to the United Way of the Lakeshore Annual Meeting: Media Welcome!

We invite members of the media to attend the United Way of the Lakeshore’s Annual Membership Business Meeting on Tuesday, May 28th, at 31 East Clay Avenue. The meeting will commence at 8:00 AM. At 8:30 AM, the Director of ALICE and Public Policy from the Michigan Association of United Ways will present the newly released report. This presentation will provide valuable insights and is not to be missed.

About United Way of the Lakeshore
United Way of the Lakeshore is uniting to inspire change and build thriving communities. We tackle the toughest issues facing our community by mobilizing every resource, partner, and voice to solve those challenges. Our Bold Goal is to ensure 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025.

For more information, visit us online at, and follow us on social media via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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. For more information, visit:

Media Contact:
Dominique Bunker
Senior Director of Community Solutions
(231) 332-4006