We all know people who are ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE workers educate our children, keep us healthy, and make our quality of life possible, yet do not earn enough to support their own families. ALICE households are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent, which have long-term consequences not only for ALICE, but for all.

In 2022, financial hardship in Texas continued to be shaped by the conflicting economic forces of the pandemic, and remained substantially undercounted by official measures. These powerful crosscurrents — COVID-19, inflation, wage growth, and the expansion and expiration of pandemic public assistance — impacted how many Texas households were below the ALICE Threshold of Financial Survival. Between 2021 and 2022, total households in Texas increased by 208,120 (up 3%), the number of households in poverty increased by 32,679 (up 2%), and the number of ALICE households increased even more substantially, by 116,891 (up 4%), continuing a more than decade-long trend in the growth of this population. In 2022, of the 10,985,596 households in Texas, 14% were in poverty and 29% were ALICE, for a combined 4,708,860 — 43% — below the ALICE Threshold.

Across the country, between 2019 and 2022, wages for the lowest-paid jobs increased at a faster rate than at any point since 1979. This was in part due to a tighter labor market in which workers reevaluated their employment situation in the wake of the pandemic and inflation, and employers had to offer more competitive wages to attract and retain them. While minimum wage increases in some states also contributed to this effect, that wasn’t the case in Texas; the state’s minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2010. But overall, low-wage jobs in Texas still saw notable wage increases from 2019 to 2022. While these increases helped fill the gap when pandemic assistance ended, they were not enough to make up for years of falling behind. In 2022, of the 20 most common occupations in Texas as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 70% still paid less than $20 per hour. And of the workers in these 20 most common occupations, 35% were below the ALICE Threshold in 2022. Occupations with the largest share of ALICE workers included personal care aides, cooks, cashiers, waiters/waitresses, and fast food/counter workers.