In many low-income neighborhoods, upgrading to energy-efficient lightbulbs costs more than twice what it does in higher-income areas.

Tony Reames of the University of Michigan led a research team that surveyed 130 stores across Wayne County, which includes Detroit.

Reames: “Fewer stores in higher poverty areas even carried LED bulbs, but when they did, they were far more expensive.”

In zip codes with high poverty levels, an LED bulb costs, on average, more than six dollars more than an incandescent bulb. But in areas with less poverty, the difference was only about three dollars.

Reames says the main reason is that high-poverty areas tend to have smaller variety stores that cannot buy items in bulk the way big-box retailers can.

And many low-income people in cities do not have cars, so they often rely on the stores they can walk to.

Reames says this is just one example of why it’s important to develop programs that help low-income people access and afford energy-efficient technology.

Reames: “I think the more we’re able to recognize place, class, and race, and economics and how places are developed, then we can be smart about how we roll out programs.”

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