A comparative assessment of household power failure coping strategies in three American cities

Household power outage experiences vary based on outage characteristics and the household's ability to cope with a disruption. While disaster management scholarship has produced methods to predict where the most significant impacts of a hazard may occur, these methods do not anticipate secondary effects, such as those from power outages. This research is necessary as the expected risks associated with power outages will increase in the United States due to climate change, increasing electricity demand, and aging infrastructure. To understand households' power outage experiences, we collected 896 surveys from three cities in the United States: Detroit, MI; Miami, FL; and Phoenix, AZ. Participants were recruited through Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) service to complete a survey. We hypothesized that racial/ethnic minority groups, specifically non-white households and lower-income households experienced more frequent and prolonged power outages. We also hypothesized that the same groups were more likely to have experienced more significant adverse effects, such as throwing away perishable food and not receiving assistance. We found that non-white households in Phoenix and Detroit were more likely to experience longer outages than white households; however, this association was not present in Miami and was not statistically significant in any city. Income was not a major factor in predicting food waste or assistance received during the longest self-reported outage. Further assessments in varying geographical contexts and more generalizable samples are necessary to increase understanding of how households experience power outages.
This article was originally published in Energy Research and Social Science. The version of record is available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2024.103573. © 2024. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/. This article is embargoed until 05/19/2026.
power outages, disasters, electricity infrastructure, social vulnerability, electrical grid failure
Andresen, Adam X., Liza C. Kurtz, Paul M. Chakalian, David M. Hondula, Sara Meerow, and Melanie Gall. “A Comparative Assessment of Household Power Failure Coping Strategies in Three American Cities.” Energy Research & Social Science 114 (August 2024): 103573. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2024.103573.