Cascading benefits of low-income weatherization upon health and household well-being

Building and Environment(2023)

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This paper presents research that shows how home environmental conditions are part of a larger household-centric system that contains nodes related to household finances, occupants’ general health, life satisfaction, and serious health-related life events. Data were collected to assess the non-energy impacts of a utility-driven low-income energy efficiency (i.e., weatherization) program implemented in the Southeastern United States. A household survey was administered by phone to a treatment group just prior to weatherization and one year after weatherization and to a control group during the same timeframes. The survey posed questions that were used to create five aggregate variables that compose the household system: 1) home conditions; 2) household financial problems; 3) general health and well-being; 4) life satisfaction; and 5) major health-related life events. The results show that all five aggregate variables are highly correlated with each other with the expected signs both pre- and post-weatherization. A five-equation simultaneous equation model was estimated using three-stage least squares, where the endogenous variables were the post-weatherization values for the aggregate variables. A weatherization treatment dummy variable was added to each equation. The results indicate that home conditions and general health were the most statistically significant endogenous variables. The treatment dummy was statistically significant in three of five equations, including home conditions. Age and income were the most influential demographic variables. Overall, the results suggest energy efficiency improvements in low-income homes can have a cascading positive influence on financial issues, general health, life satisfaction, and major life events.
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