The U.S. Postal Service is about the best in the world at providing its core service of mail delivery. In fact, its ability to deliver mail and return undeliverable mail to the sender effectively makes the United States government one of the most efficient in the world, according to a working paper by National Bureau of Economic Research.

A group of economists rated the efficiency of the world's governments with a simple test of their postal systems. The group mailed fake letters to nonexistent businesses in 159 countries and waited a year to see which were sent back to a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The goal was to use a simple, universal service to explore why, other than corruption, developing countries tend to have poorly performing governments. All the letters went to countries that subscribe to the Universal Postal Union, which requires that incorrectly addressed mail be returned within a month.

The United States was one of only four countries to send the undeliverable letters back within 90 days, along with El Salvador, Czech Republic, and Luxembourg. In fact, the U.S. had the fastest return rate at 16 days, although it may have benefited from returning the letters to an address in the United States. It also returned 100 percent of the fake-addressed letters.

The study was not intended to assess the Postal Service, but the results do highlight some of its key strengths, at least compared to foreign posts. Foremost, better classification systems for addresses tended to result in faster returns, the economists noted. The Postal Service uses uniform address standards and its address database is among the most robust in the world.

Again, this was not the study’s intention, but the results seem to support the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) position that a national addressing system is essential to the economic and social advancement of countries. In its recent white paper, “Addressing the World – An Address for Everyone,” the UPU says that in many developing countries, physical addresses exist only in city centers. Without physical addresses, it is difficult to impossible for public services and businesses to reach their intended targets.

“A quality address infrastructure must be considered as an essential part of a country’s socio-economic infrastructure, not only for improving public services, but also facilitating business, trade and, consequently, national development,” the UPU says.

How important is an addressing infrastructure to government efficiency and business development? What parts of addressing does the Postal Service do particularly well? What could be improved? Share your thoughts.

Comments (118)

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  • anon

    EQ001696256US.....whats wrong with my pkg and how long its gonna take to return my pkg, You said my item was return to the sender and yet the sender dont have the pkg yet....what you guys waiting for ?

    Apr 22, 2017
  • anon

    I am a care giver for my brother. He haS Alzheimer's and is receiving in one month 100peices of junk mail. The problem is he is giving to everyone that sends him a letter. He does not understand that he does no owe these people. I wrote on the letters ( only ones that had a return address) RETURN TO SENDER. The next day he got all of them back in his mail box. Why did they not go back to the sender?

    Apr 12, 2017
  • anon

    I put in a change of address in the post office and on line the one in the post office had my mail return to my old address the one I did online sent me a change of address validation which one is true I haven't received any mail yet.I have important medical paper work that has to be with me.

    Apr 08, 2017
  • anon

    I just had my insurance cancelled all because they said my mail was returned so they could no longer consider that a verified address. I have know clue why the mail man did this. I had received mail from my insurance for 3 months prior to this. Know I have to go 4-5 days min. Without my blood pressure meds. So If I die it's because of an incompetent worker!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Apr 08, 2017
  • anon

    I have lived here over a year and keep getting packages for someone else. I leave them outside and by the end of the day the rightful person comes to pick then up in their vehicle. I almost caught them the other day so that I could talk to them but they drove off too soon. Why do they have packages delivered where they don't live and how do I stop it??? It feels like an invasion of privacy like they are hiding where they live so they have stuff delivered here.

    Apr 05, 2017
  • anon

    I have had two letters returned to sender that had the correct address: one from a friend and another from my insurance company. These are the two I know about. Any idea why this would happen? One was hand written and one was printed.

    Mar 30, 2017
  • anon

    Great

    Mar 30, 2017
  • anon

    I have not received my mail or packages I have order I live in Gulfport MS

    Mar 28, 2017
  • anon

    I have been having problems with getting a few things that I know have been sent and have never received them. I have went to my local post office and they say they're not sure why it keeps getting sent back that it isn't them, my address is correct.. I have had to call one man that sending me important papers from a car accident I had back in October multiple times and I never received it.. along with a few other things.. I live in Paden City, WV and was getting stuff then out of nowhere I am not receiving the things that I really need.. can someone help me and tell me what to do to fix this??

    Mar 28, 2017
  • anon

    My mail keeps getting ddelivered to another address and it says return to sender ive been living in this address for the pass 5 years i already went to my local post office they dont seem to know whats going on i dont know what to else to do i need my mail.

    Mar 23, 2017
  • anon

    Did you get your package back?

    Mar 24, 2017
  • anon

    I am having the same issue Jessica, but I have only live in this house for a short period of time.

    Mar 24, 2017
  • anon

    My son visiting in Austin TX mailed a package to my other son who lives in Albuquerque NM. He did not put his brother's name, nor his apartment number on the label. He paid $9.32. It was sent USPS ground and ended up coming to the return address with another $9.32 having to be paid because, according to the clerk at the post office, when packages are shipped ground returning them to sender when they are undeliverable is not included in the postage. Is this correct or did they take $9.32 improperly?

    Mar 22, 2017
  • anon

    Have sent mail to my grandson who is college in California several times. It also comes back not deliverable as addressed; however, I have verified both online and with the postal service and grandson that the address is correct. What can I do?

    Mar 20, 2017
  • anon

    Help I sent out several Christmas letters to addresses I had been given by friends. Four of the letters came back to me marked "return to sender". I called my friends and got the corrected addresses. I changed the addresses on the original envelopes and remailed the letters with the original stamp. All of them came back again despite the correct addresses. Do I have to fill out a new envelope with a new stamp?

    Mar 16, 2017
  • anon

    I have this huge problem with your postal service. I don't live in the US and send a package to friend who was staying at his brother's apartment to bring that package to me; His brother, who was unaware of the situation, was called (4 days later after my package arrive, February 23rd) by the apartment complex's mail office and was told that there was a package with my name on the billing information, and therefore he rejected the package (which was merely accidental) then the package was marked Undeliverable as Addressed on Feb. 27th and the tracking status did not updated so I requested a redelivery to that same address to arrive on March 5th which didn't update the order's status. Then, on March 7th I requested another redelivery for the next day which actually updated the package status but still did not arrive and finally made another request on March 8th to arrive the next day and status is still "In Transit" and today is March 15th and is still in transit. I've tried to make another request for redelivery but I couldn't (I cannot select a redelivery date) so I tried to select the "Carriers return to sender" but when I tried to submit that very same request I get a "Redelivery item already returned to sender" message and then I contacted the sender and I was told that my package isn't there. I need help immediately! I've tried to contact your costumer service with no luck!

    Mar 15, 2017
  • anon

    My package was not delivered since it arrived at the post office in Florida march 3rd I need help with that.

    Mar 14, 2017
  • anon

    I fiked a change of address the beginning of feb. so that i may obtain my W2 forms since then my W2 keeps getting returned to sender i am trying to file my taxes so as not to land in trouble with the IRS and so that i may obtain my returns. This has been brought to the attention of the post office here in Southern Pines,NC where i live and all they can tell me is that it keeps being returned not why or what i can do to ensure delivery and its frustrating and upsetting. I would like to resolve this matter as quickly as possible

    Mar 10, 2017
  • anon

    my wife sent a USPS package from NJ to Italy with a couple of infant pajamas for a new born. She claimed it at $35 content. when it reached the addressee in Italy, they claimed they needed to collect 150 euro for customs. they claimed that the value was $350 instead of $35. in any case, it was refused, and sent to sender. My wife tracked the package as it came back to the US, through JFK airport, then some place in Connecticut, then to Newark Airport. at that point she couldn't understand why it was going to Newark airport, until the next tracking came through saying it had left Newark airport for Milano(italy).....it basically came back to the US only to be sent immediately back. How in hell could this happen. as an FYI, the italian post office claimed that the mistake $350 mistake came directly from the US when it was originally shipped.

    Mar 09, 2017
  • anon

    I mailed a card with a personal check inclosed. In checking to see if it was deliver to the party I send it 4 1/2 weeks ago it never arrive or never got delivered to the address on the envelope.? the party which it was sent to ? I have check with my bank 3 times to see if it when if they person(s) every received it.?? and it has How can I find out where it is and why is was not returned to me saying it was un-deleiverable.?? How can I find out if it was ever delivered and if not why was it not return to me.?? How can I trace it.?? In checking the check was never cashed? Thanks

    Mar 06, 2017
  • anon

    Hello, My parents sent me a package from Russia. It was never delivered to me and now it is going back to sender for no reason. The address on the package is correct. Please help to deliver it to me. Thank you. Natalia

    Feb 26, 2017
  • anon

    How long will it take to send a package with signature conformation back to sender if it's within the same state? My package was undeliverable and we decided to send it back (this is all in Texas we live 3 hours away) but now its in the NORTH TEXAS PROCESSING AND DISTRIBUTION CENTER how long will it take to send it back?

    Feb 22, 2017
  • anon

    How did you track the returned item? With the same tracking number it was sent?

    Feb 24, 2017
  • anon

    i have a sisterinlaw who was living with us before but they already move out about two almost 3 months. when they move out i told her to change her address to her new address but she keep saying that she was busy and dont have time to do it so i still getting her mail for 2 months she just keep going in our house and take her mail its kinda irritating so i start sending it back to sender but i still getting more and more so i asked her whats her new address but she doesn't want to give it to me what else i can do beside sending it to sender?

    Feb 21, 2017
  • anon

    You can always tape a note outside / inside your mailbox listing the names of the people who actually reside with you. It should keep the post workers from delierving! You can also go full out a change of address form at your local post office, and just say that she moved and left no forwarding address!

    Mar 21, 2017
  • anon

    I have family currently living in Nevada and each time they try to mail something to me ( I live in portland oregon) by UPS it ends up being returned to sender yet I have been getting things through FedEx with no problems at all. I am curious to why nothing sent by UPS is arriving to my location. Could someone please help?

    Feb 10, 2017
  • anon

    Ive been waiting for my mail to come in it been almost a month for my iD card to come in why

    Feb 08, 2017
  • anon

    I mailed very important papers last week but forgot to attach stamp. So it should be returned to my returning address but I don't get it. I put those papers in SealBeach post box at 610 Pacific Coast highway. Please help me to get back those papers.

    Feb 07, 2017
  • anon

    How can I stop an order to return mail to sender? My zip code is 48080 My son with same name moved a year ago. At that time he did online change of address. Portions of my mail has been forwarded to his address. The forward order is expiring. I have now not received important documents from Social Security and a life insurance policy. My local post office has told me that nothing can be done. That i would have to change my address on all my mail, But I have never moved , I was told to find another address to use, change my address and then later change it back to the correct address. This seems stupid to me. I would think that the sorting facility could use a computer, which is how this all started and stop sending mail back to the sender and just deliver to my address, period. I tried calling USPS, but wait time is one hour. I tried emailing and it said I would receive an email in 24 hours letting me k now that my concern had been received, 48 hours later and no response. All I want is to have my mail delivered to my home. Period. I absolutely should not have to change my address in order to receive mail. I thank God that my son only moved a city away from me and not out of state. I even had to call Social Security because I never received documents, i was concerned because if my mail is returned that they may think I had passed away and that my SSDI checks would stop being deposited. This is the 21st century I see no reason why USPS can't just fix this and deliver all mail with my name on it with my address on it to my house. Please respond,

    Feb 04, 2017
  • anon

    How do I get my return mail if I moved?

    Jan 26, 2017
  • anon

    CAN A PACKAGE I SHIPPED BE RETURNED TO THE SENDER AFTER FINDING OUT THE PARTY MOVED TO AN UNKOWN LOCATION?

    Jan 22, 2017
  • anon

    My mail from the IRS is missing. I tried calling and tracking no info on package is the reply I get. Went to post office their saying it was returned to sender on the 3rd of January. How would I go about finding it?

    Jan 13, 2017
  • anon

    Tracking showed my package was out for delivery this morning, then returned to sender this afternoon. Now my post office cant find it and driver states he never saw it. Filing complaint for internal mail theft. I can email you audio of my 2 conversations with my local post office if need be.

    Jan 12, 2017
  • anon

    IF YOU VALUE YOUR SHIPMENTS THEN SHIP THEM WITH FED EX OR UPS. USPS MAIL THEFT IS OUT OF CONTROL LATELY. 13 LOST PACKAGES IN 42 DAYS. WELL DONE USPS, YOUVE RUINED BY BUSINESS

    Jan 12, 2017
  • anon

    I know quite a few people who worked for FedEx and outright opened "damaged" boxes (they, themselves damaged it based on who it was sent to or sent from). ALL CARRIERS have employees who are untrustworthy. Always insure your packages, no matter the carrier.

    Feb 08, 2017
  • anon

    I moved and need to get my mail that was returned.

    Jan 09, 2017
  • anon

    Is there a way to stop receiving mail from a person in jail that keeps sending mail. How would I go about receiving mail from this person. Have already put return to sender multiple times.

    Jan 06, 2017
  • anon

    Do I have to put another stamp on a letter that was returned? I had a p.o. Box for friend and crossed it out to put their physical address.

    Jan 03, 2017
  • anon

    I did not pick up my mail for a few weeks as I work the late shift. I went to the Madison, TN office and told them that I was not getting mail and it was likely my mistake, but that I would like it corrected. I was told they would let the carrier now. I had important work documents returned a month later. I have been there in person twice and have called several times, with the last "supervisor" telling me he would give him a warning card. More work documents just got returned yet again. Horrible customer service. Isnt it illegal to keep mail from customers?!

    Dec 25, 2016
  • anon

    I am updating my postal mail addresses. If the person no longer lives there, or it is an incorrect address, how can I be assured to get the mail envelope back so I will know it is the wrong address.?

    Dec 17, 2016
  • anon

    I've been sending letters back and forth to a friend for a couple months and just tried to send one back to him with the same address and received my letter back in the mail. He still lives in the same place and had received my mail before, why did I get my letter back?

    Dec 10, 2016
  • anon

    My mail keeps getting returned to sender, despite having the correct address. My husband and I are the first to live at our place. I am beyond furious at USPS. How is it that UPS and FedEx get packages to me with no problem, but the only mail I can get through USPS is the damn junk mail.

    Dec 06, 2016
  • anon

    I have the same problem and have even verified with the senders that they addressed their mailings correct. But multiple times the mail gets sent back to sender. I have a completely different experience to the claims made in this article.

    Feb 28, 2017
  • anon

    I am having the same problem with mail that is correctly addressed being returned to sender. In this case, it is only mail that is addressed to our business (which is the same address as our home address). The problem started just recently and has happened twice that we know of. I went to the post office and spoke to a supervisor on more than one occasion, and each time they carefully checked to make sure there were no problems.

    Mar 01, 2017
  • anon

    I returned to sender EZPASSNJ Tags through the Post Office Counter in Wingdale, NY on Nov 10th, 2016. It's almost 3 weeks now and they are not returned yet? Where could the package be?

    Nov 30, 2016
  • anon

    Me and my partner changed our address online through the post office and not all of our stuff is being forwarded like packages that we couldn't change the course of their address without dropping a lot of money. Like how hard is it to put a sticker on the package and forward it to our new address? I thought everything was forwarded?!

    Nov 26, 2016
  • anon

    My mail keeps getting returned to sender. I get some but not all.

    Nov 26, 2016
  • anon

    I sent a package to nigeria it was non payment on the 19 of this month how can I get it returned to me. it has not reached costumes yet.

    Nov 25, 2016
  • anon

    I sent a package to the wrong address and they received it they put it back in their mail box to send back to me. About how long would it take for the package to be returned to me. I have the tracking number but that won't do any good if they already received it right? Thank you for your time. Susan Dachtler

    Nov 23, 2016
  • anon

    My sister sent a international package to me from Taiwan, and I checked the tracking number of the package for 2 months. The package just arrived at San Francisco, and then it returned back to Taiwan. Where can I inquire the answer for why international package returned to the sender? because the received address is completely correct. I've no ideal and need to payed the additional fee for returning. It's waste my money and time. I need the answer since my sister already sent my the second international package on the way. Please help me knowing how to figure out the issue.

    Nov 20, 2016

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