Effects of Simplifying Outreach Materials for Energy Conservation Programs that Target Low-Income Consumers
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.
G. Wong-Parodi et al., "Effects of Simplifying Outreach Materials for Energy Conservation Programs that Target Low-Income Consumers," Energy Policy, vol. 62, pp. 1157-1164, Elsevier Ltd, Nov 2013.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2013.07.069
Engineering Management and Systems Engineering
Keywords and Phrases
Consumer Outreach; Energy Conservation; Readability
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Article - Journal
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