Whats up with mail blog art

Whether you live in a bustling city like New York City or Los Angeles, a rural area in the Midwest or Great Plains, or somewhere in between, we all have one thing in common — we’re still using the mail in some way.

Yes, First-Class Mail (FCM) volume has been in decline for several years. From 2009-2012, total mail volume declined more than 10 percent annually, although since 2013, the average rate of decline has slowed to less than 6 percent. And single-piece FCM — or the type of mail sent by everyday Americans, such as birthday cards and wedding invitations ― has been dropping since 1996.

But that doesn’t tell the full story. In fact, it barely tells a story at all.

Our recent paper, What’s up with Mail? How Mail Use Is Changing Across the United States, found that where you live is suggestive of how much mail you send and receive. For example, nationally, the average adult resident sent 83 pieces of mail in fiscal year (FY) 2015. However, this ranged from as low as 56 pieces in New Mexico, to as high as 169 in Vermont.

When it comes to sending commercial products, it’s clear why certain areas experience more volume. For example, FCM Presort (which makes up 26 percent of total mail volume) and Marketing Mail (formerly known as Standard Mail and which represents over 52 percent of total mail volume) are often sent from central locations to people all across the country. So, of course those central locations will have high volume numbers.

However, where the bulk of this mail is sent also varies by region, with other factors playing a role as well. For example, residents of suburban areas and in higher-income ZIP Codes receive more commercial mail than those with lower incomes.

Even among communities close to one another, there can be great variation in mail volume. For example, within the Los Angeles metropolitan area, adults in Inglewood received an average of 196 pieces of Marketing Mail in FY 2015 while their wealthier neighbors a few miles away in Santa Monica received on average 539 pieces.

We would like to hear your thoughts on why you think these regional mail variations exist. Do you think the U.S. Postal Service could explore opportunities based on these distinctions? Have you lived in different regions of the country in your life and noticed more or less mail volume?

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  • anon

    After placing mail in our rural mailbox and putting the flag up, the mail remained in there. I took it out the next day and went to the post office. When I mentioned to the window clerk to remind the rural carrier to watch for flags being up for mail. Her response was.....if there is no mail delivery to that home, they are under no obligation to pick up. IS this true? I was shocked, as others are that I have shared this information with. Please confirm if this is true or not. Thank you.

    Apr 25, 2017

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