(From Rackham Graduate School) “Early scholars, particularly in European countries, considered anyone to be energy poor if they spent 10 or more percent of their household income on fuel costs,” explains Dominic Bednar (M.S. ’16), a doctoral candidate in the School for Environment and Sustainability and Urban Energy Justice Lab. A household’s energy costs divided by its total income is known as a household’s energy burden.

In his master’s work, Bednar examined available data in order to determine what types of households were most likely to be affected by this burden. More than 14 million Americans are behind on their energy bills, and, according to National Poverty Center data cited by Bednar, African Americans are twice as likely to be among them and three times more likely to experience an energy shutoff.

“I recognized that energy disparities exist across race, socioeconomic status, and location, or—said another way—race, class, and place,” he says. “Now I’m working to understand why these disparities exist in the first place and juxtaposing that with how the government assists households in terms of getting them out of these situations of energy insecurity.”

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