Title

Effects of Simplifying Outreach Materials for Energy Conservation Programs that Target Low-Income Consumers

Abstract

Critics have speculated that the limited success of energy conservation programs among low-income consumers may partly be due to recipients having insufficient literacy to understand the outreach materials. Indeed, we found outreach materials for low-income consumers to require relatively high levels of reading comprehension. We therefore improved the Flesch-Kincaid readability statistics for two outreach brochures, by using shorter words and shorter sentences to describe their content. We examined the effect of that simplification on low-income consumers' responses. Participants from low-income communities in the greater Pittsburgh area, who varied in literacy, were randomly assigned to either original communications about energy conservation programs or our simplified versions. Our findings suggest that lowering readability statistics successfully simplified only the more straightforward brochure in our set of two, likely because its content lent itself better to simplification. Findings for this brochure showed that simplification improved understanding of its content among both low-literacy and high-literacy recipients, without adversely affecting their evaluation of the materials, or their intention to enroll in the advertised programs. We discuss strategies for improving communication materials that aim to reach out to low-income populations.

Department(s)

Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Consumer Outreach; Energy Conservation; Readability

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0301-4215

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Citation

File Type

text

Language(s)

English

Rights

© 2013 Elsevier Ltd, All rights reserved.

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