Groundbreaking Study Reveals One in Two Pickens County Households Struggled to Afford Basics in 2021

ALICE Report details size and scope of financial hardship in Pickens County.

November 2, 2023

Pickens County, SC – Of the more than 2 million households in South Carolina, 877,933 were unable to afford all their basic needs in 2021, according to the ALICE Report released today by the United Ways of South Carolina. The Report was released in partnership with United For ALICE, a U.S. research organization driving innovation, research and action to improve life across the country for people in financial hardship.

ALICE® in South Carolina: A Study of Financial Hardship places a spotlight on the large population of hardworking residents who work at low-paying jobs, have little or no savings and are one emergency or unexpected expense from a cycle of financial instability. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The Report is the most comprehensive depiction of financial need in the state to date, using the latest data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census. The Report unveils new measures, based on 2021 income levels and expenses, that quantify how many in South Carolina’s workforce are struggling financially, and why.

In 2021, a total of 590,789 South Carolina households fell into what United Way calls the ALICE® population. These are households earning more than the official U.S. poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living in our community. This number was more than the official poverty rate, which accounted for 305,580 households in the state. Combined, ALICE households and households living below the federal poverty level comprise the ALICE Threshold, which represents the minimum income level necessary for survival for a household.  50 percent of all households in the Pickens County fell within the ALICE Threshold.

“We all know ALICE,” said United Way of Pickens County President, Julie Capaldi. “Many of us are ALICE or have been ALICE. ALICE is our friend, our family member and our neighbor. ALICE is a recent college graduate unable to afford to live on their own, a young family strapped by childcare costs and a mid-career professional who is now underemployed. These folks are vital to our state’s future economic well-being, and they face barriers to financial stability that are beyond their control.”
The Report is a project of United For ALICE, a grassroots movement of United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in more than half the United States, all using the same methodology to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide county-by-county data and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.

“This Report provides the objective data that explains why so many residents are struggling to survive and the challenges they face in attempting to make ends meet,” said the Report’s lead researcher, United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Until now, the true picture of need in local communities and states has been understated and obscured by misleading averages and outdated poverty statistics.”

The ALICE Report reveals:

▪    Households below the ALICE Threshold span all races, ages and genders. Yet for certain groups, the struggle is disproportionate. For example, 60% of Black and 52% of Hispanic households in South Carolina were below the ALICE Threshold in 2021, compared to 36% of white households.

▪    In part, because wages had stagnated for a decade, those working various roles in the hospitality retail industries had some of the highest percentages of South Carolina workers falling under the ALICE Threshold.

  • 53% of the state’s 31,380 restaurant servers lived below the ALICE Threshold in 2021.
  • 46% of the state’s 54,570 cooks lived below the ALICE Threshold in 2021.
  • 36% of the state’s 66,110 retail salespersons lived below the ALICE Threshold in 2021.

▪    41 of the 46 counties in South Carolina had 40 percent or more households unable to make ends meet in 2021. The average income needed to survive in South Carolina depends on local conditions and ranged from $52,596 in Orangeburg County to $70,728 in Charleston County annually for a family of four, more than double the official U.S. poverty level.

“ALICE often is forced to make choices that compromise their health and safety in order to make ends meet,” United for ALICE (SC) Director, Katie Reams said, “putting both ALICE and the wider community at risk of long-term societal and economic repercussions.”

“This inaugural ALICE Report sets a light on the 43% of South Carolina households who work hard, but never seem to get ahead,” said Trident United Way President & CEO DJ Hampton II. “The data provided by the ALICE Report uniquely positions the United Ways of South Carolina with the ability to translate this date into meaningful action to improve lives and strengthen economic well-being for all South Carolinians.”

The ALICE Report for South Carolina is sponsored by Carolinas Credit Union Foundation in partnership with Trident United Way and the United Ways of South Carolina.

For more information or to find data about ALICE in local communities, visit

About Trident United Way
Celebrating more than 77 years of service, Trident United Way is a catalyst for measurable community transformation in education, financial stability and health. In 2021 The Chronicle of Philanthropy once again voted United Way as America’s favorite charity.

About United Way of Pickens County
United Way of Pickens County mobilizes the caring power of Pickens County to improve communities and individual lives in measurable and lasting ways. A member of the world’s largest nonprofit network, United Way of Pickens County bring together individuals, businesses, nonprofits, community leaders and government to tackle root causes and achieve specific, measurable goals in the areas of Financial Stability and 3rd Grade Reading. Both directly and through grants to nonprofits, we are investing to build economic opportunity, advance childhood learning, expand philanthropy, and to drive policy and participation. To learn more, visit or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

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 28 states and includes United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, 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: