What a difference a decade makes. The U.S. Census Bureau is planning to use technology in a big way for the upcoming 2020 census, relying on digital surveys rather than the traditional mailed-back paper surveys. Citizens will receive a letter in the mail directing them to fill out their survey online.

The bureau’s goal for the 2020 census is for 55 percent of the U.S. population to respond via computers, mobile phones, or other devices, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center. It will mark the first time (apart from a small share of households in 2000) that Americans will file their own census responses online. The bureau intends to rely on paper surveys for households in neighborhoods with low Internet usage and large elderly populations.

This shift toward digital is one of a number of technological innovations the bureau has planned for the 2020 census, which could save $5.2 billion compared to the 2010 census, according to the bureau’s operational plan.

These developments will certainly have an impact on the U.S. Postal Service. In 2010, census mailings generated over $202 million in revenue for the Postal Service, according to a 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office.

The Postal Service won’t see its revenues from census mailings completely disappear, but they will shrink. The proposed changes will require the Postal Service to adjust operations accordingly. The GAO report said the two organizations planned to update a memorandum of understanding that includes an agreement that the bureau provide the Postal Service with its geographic data products and support, which should help the Postal Service improve its mail routing and other business decisions.

How do you feel about responding to the census online? Do you have security concerns about responding to the census survey digitally? Are there ways the Postal Service could be more involved in the census?  What are you concerns and why?

Comments (3)

  • anon

    On 2/20/2016 I sent a priority envelope to my daughter at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield CT, I sent it from my local post office facility. It had an estimated 2/22 delivery date. I tracked it sitting in the local postal facility in PUERTO RICO where it sat until I filed an online complaint. It was finally delivered a week after I sent it. On 3/15/16 I sent a box priority mail to my daughter at SHU in Fairfield, CT. It was instead delivered to MASSACHUSETTES. Upon realizing the error, it was NOT forwarded to the correct and clearly posted address in Fairfield, CT, but was instead sent to KEARNY NJ where it still sits. Now talk about "waste". It was a waste of my time, my money, my daughters time to keep running to the SHU post office, for the SHU post office folks to search all their logs to make sure they didn't accidently give it to someone else...to say nothing of the non-existent delivery of the medicine and insurance card my daughter needs. So I guess if I really want something delivered, I should trust only myself and NOT the USPS.

    Mar 17, 2016
  • anon

    For the 2010 census, I tried 3 times to get the census to MAIL me a form. THEY WOULD NOT. I live in a city of 200,000 and have had a PO BOX since 1977 when I moved to the city (first to the city park for 3 weeks because of mortage foul-ups) and my mail started being stolen from my mailbox on the curb. I work when Librarys are open. Once I retire, 1 to 2 years from now, I will have no e-mail and no on-line access at all. MY PO BOX is at the nearest post office, but my house is in a DIFFERENT Post Office. Hence they don't know I exist. They will also miss the homeless, and the transient population that live in motels.

    Mar 17, 2016
  • anon

    I received a Census survey about two months ago and it gave me the option to complete it online. After almost weekly reminder mailers to fill it out, I thought I'd give it a try, but then stopped less than halfway through the survey. Given all of the cyber hacks on OPM, healthcare providers, etc., I was really, really uncomfortable sharing all of the personal information they asked online. Maybe I'm unjustly paranoid, but if Census ever got hacked, everything about your personal life is out there for the taking.

    Mar 17, 2016

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