State demographer says socioeconomic changes are critical to low-income assistance programs


TXU Energy's Low-Income Advisory Council members and meeting guests discuss the changing status of Texas' socioeconomic climate.

TXU Energy’s Low-Income Advisory Council members and meeting guests discuss the changing status of Texas’ socioeconomic climate.

In the past 31 years, TXU Energy has contributed more than $200 million in low-income customer assistance to help our customers in times of need. According to Texas State Demographer Dr. Lloyd Potter, the need for energy assistance is directly related to – and often dependent upon – socioeconomic status, which is heavily reliant on education level and correlates to housing type.

Older, smaller homes tend to be less energy efficient than even much larger new homes, said Potter, who was appointed to his position in 2010 by Gov. Rick Perry. They often have little insulation and rely on window air conditioning units and space heaters to control temperatures. And they’re often inhabited by those who can least afford to make improvements or pay high energy bills.

Texas is tops in the percentage of adults without a high school education and only 26 percent of the state’s adults hold a bachelor’s degree, Potter explained. Factor in the aging population, who are leaving the labor force, often live on limited budgets in inefficient homes and spend more time at home during the heat of the day, and you have a recipe for increasing need for energy assistance.

If our labor force continues to grow less educated, we will have a lower-skilled, lower-paid population, which can trigger a slow-down in the state’s economy and correlates to higher poverty levels, Potter said.

Potter monitors demographic data and socioeconomic changes that help legislators and policymakers effectively handle issues regarding the demand for state services. The state’s data can help officials pinpoint where to direct assistance based on, for example, low-income levels, neighborhoods of older, less efficient homes, and density of aging residents. Ultimately, the chicken-and-egg question arises: is there more long-term benefit in providing energy assistance, or education assistance?

It’s a question TXU Energy’s Low-Income Advisory Committee considers as its members work to identify challenges faced by low-income customers and advises the company as it develops effective solutions to help those customers overcome those challenges.

For more information about bill assistance programs like LITE Up Texas and TXU Energy Aid, visit txu.com/paymentassistance.

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