August 26, 2019 (RISC-WP-19-007)

  • From its earliest beginnings, the Postal Service wrestled with conflicts between the needs of rural and urban communities.
  • Congress has played a key role in shaping postal policy throughout history, particularly in rural areas where it worked on granular issues such as the selection of specific delivery routes and the appointment of rural carriers.

When the United States was founded, the Post Office was an urban enterprise — even though cities were smaller than they are today and were home to only a small share of the nation’s population. As the country expanded, the Post Office Department quickly became one of the most important public institutions. For nearly two centuries, it commanded an outsized share of resources and influence in government.

As this brief history shows, the postal establishment struggled to adapt to the many ways the dispersed rural population differed from the concentrated urban population. Even though America has become an increasingly urban society, rural areas retain a distinct culture. The Postal Service is a part of that.

This white paper brings an essential historical perspective and is the first in a larger body of OIG work to better understand the urban-rural divide and how it is exhibited through the Postal Service’s customers. Because the Postal Service has a binding effect on the community spirit and engagement with Americans, considerations of changes to the current service model require thoughtful evaluation of the impact on both urban and rural citizens.

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Comments (2)

  • anon

    I am having a problem. I subscribe to ABC Soap Magazine. Several times this year I have not received the magazine delivered by carrier. May 6th magazine was delivered Apr 25th. May 20th magazine was delivered May 10th. Jun 3rd magazine was delivered Jun 1st etc. You will note that the magazine was delivered 7 to 10 days before the issue. Today is Aug 26th and I have not received the magazine which should have been delivered between 7 to 10 days ago. I called the local post office in Chino Valley AZ 86323 to report this problem. I was told he would speak to the carrier and that they delivered all the mail. I said perhaps it was put into the wrong box. There was a situation earlier this year when a missing magazine was delivered to me a month late. That is when I started keeping track. I feel the mail employee that I spoke to was not making me feel any better about this ongoing situation. I subscribe to a magazine and I seem to be having this situation several times already. Thank you for listening.

    Aug 26, 2019
  • anon

    Hello. We are an independent agency of the Postal Service and unfortunately can't help with customer service issues. Please file a complaint directly with the Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 or at​. Just choose the tab marked "Personnel."

    Aug 27, 2019

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  • Nye Stevens, Natalie Prosin, and Bryant Switzky contributed to this report.