Residential energy use and the city-suburb dichotomy

15 Aug 2012

Data from the 2005 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) indicate suburbanites, compared with city dwellers, have on average higher per-capita residential energy consumption. However, it is not clear why suburbanites tend to consume more energy at home. Using a two-group structural equation modeling, I analyzed direct and total effects of household’s sociodemographic characteristics, income, and building’s characteristics on per-capita energy consumption for suburbanites and city-dwellers. Results show that while modeling results show that household’s sociodemographic characteristics have the largest total effect on energy consumption per-capita in both models, the difference between the magnitudes of effect is only marginal between cities and suburbs. The direct impact of income on energy consumption index is also identical between the two models; however, the total effect is bigger for the suburbanites. Impact of income on housing characteristics is also bigger for the suburbanites. Overall, the biggest difference between cities and suburbs appears to be the effect of building characteristics on per- capita energy consumption, with suburban homes being 19% more influential in increasing per-capita energy consumption. Such an increased impact also carries the indirect effect of households’ characteristics, implying an often-neglected hierarchy of effects and consequences between household characteristics, housing characteristics and residential energy outcomes.

Department of Urban Design and Planning University of Washington.

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