USPS Household Diary Study


The PRC has posted the USPS Household Diary Study, Mail Use & Attitudes in FY 2016.

The Household Diary Study survey, fielded continuously since 1987, aims to collect information on household use of the mail and how that use changes over time. The survey collects household information on demographics, lifestyle, attitudes toward mail and advertising, bill payment behavior, and use of the Internet and other information technologies.

In 2016, U.S. households received 121.2 billion pieces of mail, and sent 9.6 billion. Mail sent or received by households constituted 82 percent of total mail in FY 2016. Fifty-eight percent of the mail households received was sent Standard Mail. Only 3 percent of household mail was sent between households; the rest was sent between households and non-households.

Total U.S. mail volume decreased by an average of 2.0 % per year between 2001 and 2016, while population and household formation increased by an average of about one % per year.

Other key points:

  • Retail Locations
    • The Postal Service currently owns and operates 35,423 post office locations (including branches) throughout the U.S.
  • Personal Correspondence
    • In FY 2016, personal correspondence accounted for an average of 0.5 pieces of mail per week, which is unchanged from 2015 and lower than in 2014.
    • The number of letters and greeting cards sent also seems to follow a pattern where the older the head of household, on average, the more the greeting cards that are sent.
  • Business Correspondence and Bills
    • In 2016, only about one quarter of household payments were made by mail.
    • Business Correspondence- Invitations and announcements represent 58 percent of business and government correspondence received by households. Other Business/Government includes mostly tax, DMV, and Social Security related correspondence.
    • Although many businesses use electronic funds transfer (EFT) or other electronic technologies to settle transactions, households still receive a majority of their recurring bills through the Postal Service.
    • As was the case for bills received, the volume of statements received by households also declined, falling from 4.5 billion pieces in 2014 to 3.9 billion pieces in 2016, a 12.5 percent decrease.
  • Advertising
    • According to Pivotal Research Group, American businesses spent about $204 billion in 2016 advertising their products and services, which represents a 6.6 percent increase from 2015, following a 3.4 percent spending increase in 2014. Of this total advertising spending, 10.0 percent was spent on direct mail (note that Pivotal’s spending estimates for direct mail include only postage costs).
    • In 2016, advertising mail represented 62 percent of all household mail. Households received 79.1 billion pieces of advertising mail, down 1.9 percent from 2014, driven by an 8.6 percent decline in First-Class advertising and a 1.0 percent decline in Standard Mail advertising.
    • Standard Mail accounted for 89 percent of total household advertising mail.
  • Periodicals
    • Historically, Periodical Mail volume has not kept pace with population growth. Since the 1990s, as demographics and technology changed, people began to read less printed materials. Periodical volumes reached a peak in 1990 at 10.7 billion pieces, but have declined each year since then, with the exception of FY 2000.
    • Periodicals represent 4.0 percent of all household mail volumes.
  • Packages
    • Households with incomes above $100,000 receive more than twice as many periodicals as households earning less than $35,000.
    • Households in the highest income bracket received more than twice the number of packages received by households with incomes below $35,000.
    • Packages received by households most often contain music/videos, pharmaceuticals, clothing, books, and household products—a sign that online purchases and mail-order retail are the primary drivers of household package volume.