According to a survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association [NPMA], 29% of respondents believe that bed bugs are an affliction of lower income households. Bed bugs do not discriminate and will reside anywhere that there is a food source and comfortable living conditions. In addition, 37% of respondents believe that bed bugs are attracted to unsanitary conditions, which is also false.
Though there currently are no national statistics on bed bug infestations in relation to socioeconomic status, there are several factors that contribute to socioeconomic status playing a role at some level.
Lower Income Residents Often Rent
Though bed bugs can be found in nearly any habitable dwelling, they thrive in multi unit apartment buildings that are more susceptible to the rapid spread and chronic infestations than single homes. They easily move from one unit to the next through walls, pipes, and doorways. [Wang]
Additionally, all units in a multi unit complex must consent to a pest control strategy, which requires complex coordination efforts from multiple residents. Because bed bugs travel between units, eliminating them in a few will only temporarily reduce the population. The infestations that are not eradicated will simply move back in to the treated unit. [CDC]
Cost of Control Is a Significant Factor
The cost of eliminating a bed bug infestation is a factor for those living in multi unit dwellings such as those inhabited by lower income residents. Landlords and tenants often dispute who is responsible for the cost, and for those in lower income brackets, the cost of personally eliminating an infestation is often prohibitive. Professionally treating a bed bug infestation is often significantly higher than eliminating other pests because control usually requires multiple visits by a licensed professional. [CDC]
Second Hand Furniture
One problem cited by many health departments when advising on bed bug infestations is the fact that people with an infestation tend to discard furniture intact. For example, they may simply place it at the curb for trash collection. This then invites passers-by to collect what they view as perfectly good furniture, unaware of the bed bug issue. Because bed bugs live in furniture, this is also an issue for those in lower income brackets who are more likely to depend on second hand furniture.
Lack of Information
Because of the sudden resurgence of bed bug infestations, which have been uncommon in the past decades, many people are uniformed about prevention and control. Much of the information that is available to the general public is web based, which may not be as available to those in lower income brackets. [ODH]
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control in the United States from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Urutia, M; Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health
Bed Bugs vs. Scabies Workshop
Ohio Department of Health
Ohio Bed Bug Workgroup 2011