Impact of Rising Energy Costs on Older Americans

Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

Energy-related expenditures include spending for utilities and fuel to operate, heat, and cool homes and spending for gasoline and motor oil for private transportation. Energy prices to consumers have increased 70% between 2000 and 2007, driven largely by growth in prices for energy commodities such as petroleum. Petroleum-based products such as fuel oil, propane and gasoline comprise about 50% of household energy expenditures. Older Americans are disproportionately affected by higher energy costs. As a share of income, households headed by a person age 65 or older spend more on energy-related expenditures than their younger counterparts. In addition, low-income households (those with less than $15,000 in household income) spent nearly 20% of their household income on energy-related expenditures in 2006 (the latest year for which data are available). This compares to 7.3% spent by older households with incomes above $15,000. These estimates are for 2006 and do not reflect the additional 17% increase in energy prices that occurred in 2007. The key public program that provides energy assistance to low-income households is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Approximately 40% of low-income households that were eligible for LIHEAP have a household member aged 60 or older. Funding for the LIHEAP Program has not kept pace with recent increases in energy costs of older Americans. This report will explore the burden of rising energy costs on older Americans and discuss implications for public policies. This report will be updated when new data is released.

Full Report (PDF; 69 KB)

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