American Sociological Association

Place-based Inequality in “Energetic” Pain: The Price of Residence in Rural America

Despite the tendency for some to view rural life or living close to nature with nostalgia, the unpalatable truth is that rural America is beset with many problems, including lower incomes, higher poverty rates, limited access to well-paying jobs, higher morbidity and mortality rates, inadequate access to health care, and lower educational attainment. In this study, we question whether this palpable rural disadvantage extends to residential energy costs, a subject with serious implications for the well-being of households. Analyses of data spanning two decades show that rural households consistently spend more on residential energy than urban households, although they generally use less. This finding, which indicates the existence of energy cost inequality between rural and urban places, represents a kind of rural tax. Any sustained spikes in costs, which has happened in the past and would likely happen in the future, could portend significant access risks to rural households


Lazarus Adua and Ashley Beaird