Healthify Blog

The Burden of Energy Costs on Low-income Families

A recent report shows that low-income U.S. households pay more than double what average households pay in energy costs when those costs are measured as a percentage of income, Urban Land Magazine reported.
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The April 20 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy said that while the average household pays 3.5 percent of its income toward energy costs, low-income households experience a median energy burden of 7.2 percent, the magazine reported.
 
The report defined "low-income" households as households with a median annual income of $24,998, according to Urban Land Magazine.  
 
In addition, the energy burdens of minority groups are greater than the average household, with African-American households facing an average burden of 5.4 percent and Latino households, 4.1 percent, the magazine reported.
 
Urban Land Magazine reported that the study also found that housing for minorities and low-income households isn't as energy efficient as the median household:
 
"Specific to low-income households, the report found that bringing the housing stock up to the efficiency level of the median household would eliminate 35 percent of excess energy burden, reducing the energy burden from 7.2 percent to 5.9 percent. For African American, Latino, and renting households, 42 percent, 68 percent, and 97 percent of their excess energy burdens, respectively, could be eliminated by raising household efficiency to the median."
 
In Healthify's view, it's things like the energy efficiency of housing -- taken together with other social determinants of health such as food, education and employment -- that can have a greater impact on a person's health than medical care.
 
For the impoverished, more money spent on energy costs means less money for other basic expenses such as rent and food, which in turn, likely increases the risk of poorer health.
 
By providing the technology to efficiently connect underserved people to social programs that can meet their basic needs, Healthify's goal is to help them get on the path toward better health.
 
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Topics: social determinants of health community resources