While it makes sense that families living below the poverty line have a difficult time covering their energy bills, new University of Wisconsin Oshkosh research shows the reverse to be true as well—high energy bills can lead a household into poverty.

The nationwide study—led by UWO environmental sociologist Jeremiah Bohr and published Nov.15 in the peer-reviewed journal Social Forces—indicates that dedicating inordinate amounts of income to energy services can threaten a family’s well-being over time.

“In a state like Wisconsin with harsh winters, it is very important to think of the families that have trouble covering the heating bills,” he said. “At a certain point, it is non-negotiable. You have to heat your home or the pipes will freeze.”

Bohr and Anna McCreery with Elevate Energy, an economic development agency in Chicago, analyzed and energy expenditures of thousands of American households across two decades. They paid special attention to households classified as “energy burdened”—those spending 10% or more of their income on heating and electricity.?

Read more at Phys.org