Officials: ALICE study ‘contradicts’ census information
Economic development says report overstates issues in county
Earlier this spring, Charles County United Way Director Mike Bellis met with the Charles County Board of Commissioners to discuss the ALICE report, which captured data on citizens and families living on the edge of the poverty line throughout Maryland.
The commissioners had concerns about the report’s findings when Bellis introduced it to them because of the focus on the “negative” aspects included in the report, also stating it had little discussion of the county’s economic growth.
ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, used to describe those who are working, but are close to being at the poverty threshold.
Darrell Brown, director of Charles County’s economic development department, said he and the department harbored some of those same concerns about the ALICE findings.
“The report does, in my view, require a state response, if not a national response,” Brown said. “The ALICE report has a misapplied and convoluted methodology which makes some assumptions concerning Charles
The report “contradicts” how the Census Bureau’s data is used in the application, Brown said. The department will not dispute that the county has residents who are on the edge of poverty, he said, but they do question the severity of the findings.
Despite the questionable use of data in the report, Brown said, it does raise a policy question about the
quantity and quality of “affordable rental housing” in Charles County.
“This is a category where the county ranked poor and was the lowest ranked county in the state,” Brown said.
Going further into why the report did not accurately capture life in Charles County, Marcia Keeth, the deputy director of the department, said only one page out of the 160-page findings highlighted Charles County.
Each jurisdiction in the state has its own page of analysis in the report, she
said, and the rest is about the statewide economy. “It is, indeed, a statewide report,” Keeth said.
And there have been similar outcomes in different states with similar findings. Maryland — and Charles County — are not unique in this situation, she said.
Much of the report is based on census data from the American Community Survey, Keeth said. The census also offers five-year data samples for populations with less than 65,000 people. Those are more accurate samples, she said, but less current.
The data being sampled from the report is from both one-year and five-year data samples, she said — a practice discouraged by the Census Bureau.
“The ALICE report shows on the far right column that the data for the various Maryland counties were mixed,” Keeth said. “They used one year data for the jurisdictions that it was available and five year data for the juris-