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?