Powering Down

Apparently liberals act green even when no one is watching. A new study suggests that liberal households use less electricity than conservative households, despite the fact that they probably get little credit from their peers for doing so.

Liberals have plenty of ways to flaunt their green cred: taking reusable bags to the grocery store, buying a hybrid car, installing solar panels. But reducing electricity usage isn’t as conspicuous.

The study authors examined electricity bill data for households in the western U.S., collected throughout 2008. They also drew on credit bureau and voter registration data to determine income, ethnicity, political party affiliation, and other household information. Then the team compared electricity usage between left- and right-leaning households while controlling for factors such as climate, house size, the age of the house, and the cost of electricity.

Democrat and Green Party households used 5.1 percent and 15.5 percent less electricity, respectively, than Republican households, the team found. In the summer, those gaps increased to 6.6 percent and 19.1 percent, probably because left-leaning households didn’t crank up the air-conditioning as much. “Because electricity consumption is private information that is not observed by neighbors, our results are explained by ideology not by peer pressure,” the authors write in Economics Letters. Roberta Kwok | 15 March 2013

Source: Costa, D.L. and M.E. Kahn. 2013. Do liberal home owners consume less electricity? A test of the voluntary restraint hypothesis. Economics Letters doi: 10.1016/j.econlet.2013.02.020.

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