Booming economy? For South Florida residents, barely getting by is increasingly the norm

Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate sits at about 3.6 percent—the lowest in a decade. An all-time high of more than 1.2 million county residents have jobs.

But for hundreds of thousands of Miami-Dade families, survival in the past decade has remained a struggle, according to the United Way’s latest ALICE report, a bi-annual study examining household finances by state and county.

ALICE stands for asset-limited, income-constrained, yet employed. These are households where an individual has a job, earns more than the federal poverty level, but is still earning less than the basic cost of living for their county—the ALICE Threshold. All data are sourced from the U.S. government.

The report released Wednesday shows data current as of 2016, meaning there’s likely some margin of error.

Still, it shows that In Miami-Dade, the share of ALICE households has surged—from 33 percent in 2014 to 40 percent in 2016. Meanwhile, the share of households above the ALICE threshold declined from 46 percent to 41 percent. The share of households in poverty fell from 21 percent to 19 percent. Single-parent households headed by women are highly vulnerable; black and Hispanic households are far more likely to be financially stressed than white households, according to the data.

The report found that a Miami-Dade family of four with two young children would have to be earning more than $61,000 a year to afford basic necessities. The median household income in the county earned about $46,000 at the time of data collection.

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United Way

In Broward, the story is much the same. The share of ALICE households increased from 31 percent to 37 percent, while the share of households above ALICE declined from 55 percent to 50 percent. The county’s poverty rate was nearly unchanged, falling from 14 percent to 13 percent.

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United Way

As of 2016, the “survival” budget for a young Broward family of four was more than $64,000 a year, while the median household income was about $54,000.

The findings suggest that while some South Florida families may be transitioning out of poverty, they are still struggling to get by. And a significant share who were above the ALICE threshold are sliding back into it.

The bottom line: The share of South Florida households facing difficult financial choices is surging.


In certain Miami-Dade county neighborhoods, the combine share of financially stressed households — those in poverty or within the ALICE household — approached or reached 100 percent:

  • In the Homestead Base neighborhood, 100 percent of the households are financially stressed. The area comprises approximately 900 individuals in 145 households living near Homestead Airforce Base in south Miami-Dade,
  • In Opa-locka, 88 percent of households are financially stressed. The area comprises about 16,000 individuals in about 5,123 households.
  • In Medley, 88 percent of the households are financially stressed. The neighborhood comprises about 1,000 individuals in about 317 households in northwest Miami-Dade.
  • In Brownsville, in central Miami-Dade, 87 percent of households are financially stresssed. The area includes about 16,000 individuals in about 5,108 households.
  • In Florida City in south Miami-Dade, 84 percent of the households are financially stressed. The area comprises about 12,000 individuals in about 2,862 households.

According to the study, black and Hispanic households are far more likely to be financially stressed than white ones:

  • Black households: 72 percent financially stressed (101,256 households)
  • Hispanic households: 61.5 percent (364,818 households)
  • Asian households: 47 percent (6,631 households)
  • Two or more-race households: 46 percent (7,037 households)
  • White households: 41 percent (56,868 households)

Among household types, those headed by a single female parent were highly likely to be living on the financial edge. About 80 percent live in poverty or at ALICE levels.

In Broward, far fewer neighborhoods suffer from high rates of financial stress. The most vulnerable were:

  • Franklin Park, comprising about 1,000 individuals in about 344 households just northwest of Fort Lauderdale: 89 percent rate.
  • Washington Park, comprising about 1,500 individuals in about 465 households just west of Fort Lauderdale: 81 percent
  • Pembroke Park, comprising about 6,500 individuals in about 2,317 households just southwest of Hollywood: 78 percent.

The racial breakdown for Broward was not immediately available.

By comparison, the overall Florida rate of financially stressed households (falling into poverty or at ALICE levels) remained mostly unchanged.

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United Way

“In 2016, 45 percent of Florida’s families struggled to pay their bills and keep their heads above the fiscal waters,” Ted Granger, president of the United Way of Florida, wrote in an introduction to the report. “When I first heard this statistic, I was floored. Certainly, I knew that many Florida families were struggling. But almost half of the families in the state? Shocking!”

Even using the most conservative cost scenarios for a family’s monthly expenses for housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and necessary technology, he said, ALICE families “live on the brink of financial disaster every day.”

by 30 percent statewide from 2010 to