Skip To Main Content

Why Equity Matters: Energy Use and Health Disparities by Neighborhood

The interconnections between health, housing, and energy efficiency are well documented. Just as housing characteristics are a driver of energy use, housing characteristics are also strongly related to health. For example, respiratory illnesses, as well as energy costs, can be exacerbated by poor ventilation. Further, negative health impacts and high energy burdens are disproportionately felt in lower income communities. Investments in the clean energy economy must be delivered to alleviate these disproportionate health and energy use impacts. Energy and health programs should address equity and geographic disparities.

The historic Chicago bungalow is an example of vernacular architecture; nearly 80,000 of these 1920s era homes are spread across the city and surrounding suburbs, forming a “bungalow belt” across low-, middle-, and high-income neighborhoods. Though the homes are nearly identical in size and construction, their energy use, air quality and impacts on families’ health vary by neighborhood.

Families living in economically distressed neighborhoods have higher gas use, greater energy burdens, experience poorer air quality, and suffer from asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses at higher rates than families living in higher income neighborhoods.

This paper will present analysis of the energy and health impacts across neighborhoods in Chicago, including energy use, asthma rates, and air quality, as well as a shallow real estate market analysis. The 2018 ACEEE Summer Study presentation will feature case studies via video and interviews, discuss households’ participation in energy and health programs, and will tell the energy and health stories of families who live in these homes and their efforts to manage and improve their homes and their health.

Stay Connected

Join our email list for news and updates.

Let's work