Of­fi­cials: ALICE study ‘con­tra­dicts’ cen­sus in­for­ma­tion

Eco­nomic devel­op­ment says re­port over­states is­sues in county

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

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

County res­i­dents.”

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-

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