USPS publishes FY 2023 Household Diary Study

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

Last week the Postal Service published the Household Diary Study for FY 2023. (It’s on the PRC website here.)

As the introduction to the Study states, the main objectives are to “measure the types and volumes of mail sent and received by U.S. households; track trends in mail usage over time; and compare mail usage by household demographic characteristics.”

To produce the study, households are asked to participate in a survey (online, by telephone, and on paper) about a variety of topics, including the amount of mail they send and receive, the household’s use of communication technologies like email, their bill payment behavior, and their attitudes towards advertising.

One of the survey topics is how the household uses post offices, post office boxes, and private mailing services. The survey results are then reviewed in a section of the Study entitled “Use of the Post Office.”

The FY 2022 Study, for example, noted that “despite a declining frequency of visits over the last ten years, the use of post offices for mailing services continues to dominate the mail service industry. Forty-nine percent of all U.S. households patronized a post office at least once monthly in 2022, while only 15% visited a private mailing company. Furthermore, more than 18% of households visited the post office three or more times a month. Even with the growing availability of electronic alternatives to mail products and services, in-person visits to postal facilities remain strong.”

The FY 2022 Study included this chart showing the number of household visits to the post office in the past month. Similar charts appear in previous versions of the study as well.

Source: FY 2022 Household Diary Study

The FY 2023 Household Diary Study released last week does not include this section on “Use of the Post Office,” and there’s no chart showing the data on how often people visit the post office.

The 2023 Study does indicate that during interviews, “The use of post offices, post office boxes, and private mailing services was explored.” But there’s nothing in the Study about the results. The discussion and data on the public’s use of the post office have simply been discontinued.

The Household Diary Study was initiated in 1987, and it has included a section on “use of the post office” for 21 years, going back to the FY 2002 Study.

I contacted the Postal Service to ask why this section of the report was eliminated this year, and a spokesperson wrote back to say that the questions about use of the post office were taken out “to shorten the survey questionnaire.”

While shortening the questionnaire may have had some benefits, no longer including a discussion of how customers are using the post office will be a loss for the Postal Service, those in the industry who use the Study, and the general public. And it unfortunately gives the impression that the Postal Service no longer cares very much about how people use brick-and-mortar post offices.

— Steve Hutkins

View previous posts on the Household Diary Study.