New Inflation Tracker: Cost of Virginia’s Basics Rising Faster Than CPI

New Inflation Tracker: Cost of Virginia’s Basics Rising Faster Than CPI

ALICE Essentials Index reveals Virginia’s retail salespeople lost $35,000 in buying power over 15 years


WINCHESTER, VA (June 29, 2023) — The cost of six household essentials in Virginia has risen at a faster clip than inflation, leaving low-wage workers priced out of affording the basics, according to United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley and its research partner, United For ALICE.

Over the course of 15 years, low-wage jobs didn’t keep up with the increased cost of essentials. Workers in retail sales, one of the most common occupations in Virginia, saw an average $35,000 loss of buying power — more than a year’s earnings, according to findings within the ALICE Essentials Index.

The gulf that grew between wages and the cost of basics affects the nearly 34,000 or 41% of Northern Shenandoah Valley households that can’t make ends meet, according to United For ALICE calculations. This includes households in poverty and those that are ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), earning above the Federal Poverty Level but less than the cost of basics.

“The ALICE Essentials Index shows that no matter how hard ALICE families worked, they were priced out of financial stability,” said United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley CEO Kaycee Childress. “ALICE was grappling with a surge in inflation before the rest of us. We need to do better for our essential workers and factor these insights into delivering stronger supports for vulnerable families.”

Between 2007 and 2023, the ALICE Essentials Index shows basics rising in price by 5.5% with projections for 2022 and 2023. In contrast, inflation — as measured by the national Consumer Price Index (CPI) — rose 4.8% during that time.

The ALICE Essentials Index tracks the rising cost of essentials, including housing, child care, food, health care, transportation and a smartphone plan. In contrast, CPI tracks inflation across more than 200 categories of goods and services, including luxury items, such as power boats and landscaping services. Yet, CPI is used to calculate increases in critical supports for low-income families, including Social Security and Medicaid.

“ALICE doesn’t buy power boats or hire landscapers — ALICE is doing the landscaping,” said Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., national director for United For ALICE, a U.S. research organization driving solutions to financial hardship. “ALICE is simply trying to afford safe housing and dinner on the table. The ALICE Essentials Index recognizes this disconnect and provides a new, targeted inflation measure that could help guide eligibility and increases in assistance programs.”

This report comes on the heels of the release of Virginia’s ALICE Report that shows more households struggling to make ends meet.  In May, researchers released ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship in Virginia.  The new data showed the total number of financially insecure households in the Northern Shenandoah Valley rose by about four percent. In the region which covers the City of Winchester, Frederick, Clarke, Shenandoah, Page and Warren Counties: 8,591 families or 9% of households lived in poverty in 2021, while almost 30,000 additional families – 32% of region’s population lived below the ALICE threshold. That’s a total of 41% of families struggling to make ends meet.

To learn more about the ALICE Essentials Index, and to explore the online dashboards, visit  To review the full ALICE Report online, visit:


About United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley:

Since 1946 the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley has worked to impact the community human care needs that matter most to the people of Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, Page and Warren Counties and the City of Winchester. United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley convenes the people and organizations necessary to create solutions to our region’s most pressing challenges and collaborates with effective partners. United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley seeks to serve as the catalyst for community change by supporting over 35 partner agencies in the area on Income, Health and Education. For more information, visit our website Follow us on Twitter @UWNSV.


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 27 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, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit: