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Welcome to the U.S. Postal Service Household Diary Study website! We hope you find the information presented here helpful. If you have additional questions about the study after visiting this site, please call our toll-free hotline at 1-888-441-USPS (8777), or e-mail us at

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What is the Household Diary Study ?

The Household Diary Study (HDS) examines the volume and types of mail that U.S. residents send and receive. The U.S. Postal Service collects data on mail classes, mail contents by class, mail flow between mailing sectors, mail flow by industry, as well as other types of data. These data provide a basis from which the U.S. Postal Service can make informed decisions about a variety of issues, such as postage rates, staffing needs, performance improvements, and investments in new equipment, facilities, programs, and technologies.

The study, conducted annually since 1987, examines not only the volume and types of mail sent to and from U.S. households, but also the adoption and use of electronic communications technologies such as e-mail, online shopping, and online bill payment. Given that many American households now routinely use these electronic technologies, the study focuses on how and the extent to which the adoption and use of technologies affect traditional mail volume (also called electronic diversion), and examines residents' attitudes toward the mail and electronic communications technologies.

Each year, about 5,300 randomly selected households participate in the study. They first complete a household interview and then use diaries (Answer Booklets) to keep track of all the mail they send and receive for each day of an assigned week. The diaries are easy to fill out, and we also provide a detailed Instruction Booklet for using the diaries. Technical support staff is also available by calling our toll-free survey hotline.

In appreciation of your time and effort for completing the study, we offer you one of the following gift options:



a roll of 100 "Forever" stamps.

We will send your gift after your completed diary is returned and processed. You should expect to receive your gift in about 10-12 weeks.

REMEMBER: All the information you provide will be kept strictly confidential, in accordance with the Code of Standards and Ethics for Survey Research Organizations established by the Council of American Survey Research Organizations. We will not provide your information to anyone not affiliated with the project. Furthermore, your individual household information will only be used in combination with the other 5,300 households so that no single household can be identified.


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Selection of Households

Because it is not cost-effective to survey every single household in the United States, the Household Diary Study is only administered to a small sample of households. Each year, we generate a representative and random sample of households from the Master Address List maintained by U.S. Postal Service staff in Memphis, Tennessee. These listings are then organized according to four regions and three county "types", resulting in 12 geographic categories. The regions correspond to census regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West), and the county "types" are based on each household's county. Counties in the 30 largest metropolitan areas are one type, counties in other metropolitan areas are another type, and the third type is rural counties.

Households are then selected at random within each of these twelve categories; the actual number of households selected from each category is based on ensuring that our sample proportions of households match the proportion of households within each category as they existed at the time of the last decennial census (2010). Addresses of selected households are then matched with listed telephone numbers and are contacted for participation in the study. Those households for which no phone number can be found are mailed a letter informing them of their selection into the study along with three options for participation: 1) in-bound contact with our data collection facility, 2) returning a postcard with their telephone number, or 3) completing the recruitment interview via the Internet.

In all cases, the confidentiality of the respondent is imperative. All identifying information is removed from each sample record, and any data collected is presented as summary information only.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the purpose of the diary (Answer Booklet) ?

A1: Your diary packet includes one diary for each day of the week—Monday through Sunday. Use the diaries (Answer Booklets) to record ALL household mail that enters or leaves your household on a particular day.

For example, use the Answer Booklet for Monday to record all mail sent and received by any member of your household on Monday; use the Answer Booklet for Tuesday to record all mail sent and received by any member of your household on Tuesday; and so on. The U.S. Postal Service will use this information to track mail volumes and mail types that households send and receive.

Q2. How long does it take to fill out the Answer Booklet each day ?

A2: The amount of mail you receive on a given day will determine how long it takes to complete a diary. The first diary may take up to 30 minutes to complete, but the diaries for the days that follow will take less time (depending on the amount of mail you send and receive on those days). First familiarize yourself with the instructions, questions, and mail markings; this will make completing the diaries much easier and faster!

Q3. What are mail markings ?

A3: Mail markings are the elements on each mail piece that indicate the postage paid and type of mail, e.g., First-Class, Nonprofit, Presorted Standard. Mail markings are typically located in a) the top right-hand corner of the mail piece, b) above or below the address, or c) inside the window of an envelope. Please refer to the Instruction Booklet for examples of mail markings for each mail type.

Q4: Do we include mail markings with our completed Answer Booklets ? ( In other words, do we send you our mail ? )

A4: If the mail piece is something you are willing to send us and you will no longer need, then yes, please send us the entire mail piece in the daily envelopes with the completed diaries. Be sure to label each mail piece with the mail piece number and mail type you assigned to it in the Answer Booklet. PLEASE DO NOT CUT OUT THE INDIVIDUAL MAIL MARKINGS. Some households make copies of the outside of the mail piece and send that to us. We do not expect photocopies, though we greatly appreciate the effort.

Q5: What if there are mail markings inside a window envelope? Do I send it in ?

A5: If the mail marking is on a mail piece that you don't need to keep, please send it in. If you need to keep it, please provide a description of the markings inside the window on the portion that you do send. Again, PLEASE DO NOT CUT OUT THE INDIVIDUAL MAIL MARKINGS. Alternately, you may choose to provide a photocopy, but this is not expected or required.

Q6: Is the postage paid to mail back the Answer Booklets and mail markings ?

A6: Yes, this postage is paid. We include a pre-paid Priority Mail envelope in your diary packet for returning all completed diaries and mail pieces. You do not need to return any of the instructional materials; please recycle according to your local rules.

Q7: Do we keep track of mail we send out ?

A7: Yes, in addition to the Summary Page for each day, there are two places in the Answer Booklet where you record mail that you (or anyone in your household) send out:

1. First-Class Mail Sent (Purple sheets)
2. Packages and Expedited Materials Sent (Green pages)

Q8. How do I get started ?

A8: Start by reading the Instruction Booklet-this is an important step! It may look thick, but only the first seven pages are instructions; the pages behind the colored tabs are simply examples of postage. We suggest you also look at an Instructional Video, and the Photo Quick Start for a visual overview of how to complete your diaries.

Next, sort and number each day's mail according to the type of postage (see Page 1 of the Instruction Booklet for how to sort and number your mail pieces). Then, record the number of pieces of each mail type on the Summary Page in the Answer Booklet for that day.

Third, open the Question Booklet and read the questions one by one. Write your answers in the Answer Booklet for that day. Essentially, you move back and forth between the Question and Answer booklets. For example, if you have First-Class Mail on Monday, use Monday's Answer Booklet under First-Class to record information about each piece of mail in that class.


If you have any questions, please refer to the Instruction Booklet. If you need assistance, you can also call our toll-free hotline at 1-888-441-USPS (8777) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Central Time Monday through Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time Thursday and Friday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Central Time on Saturday and Sunday.

Q9: Do I record mail received from outside the United States or mail I send to other countries ?

A9: Yes. Record all mail, domestic and international, sent and received by any member of your household in the Answer Booklets.

Q10: No one person in our household opens all the mail. How can I answer questions about other people's mail without opening it ?

A10: Record as much information as you can without opening mail addressed to others. Ask other members of your household the questions you can't answer and record their answers. Leave anything you can't answer blank.

Q11: How do I know the mail classification (Mail Type) of my mail ?

A11: Refer to the Instruction Booklet for examples of mail types under the tabbed sections of the (First-Class, Standard or Bulk, etc.). Please find the mail marking that is the closest match to your mail piece.

Q12: Are CATALOGS classified under Magazines, Newspapers, or Other Periodicals in the Answer Booklets ?

A12: Most catalogs are sent either Presorted Standard or First-Class; however, the type of postage determines the mail type, so check the mail markings to determine the correct mail type.

Q13: The return address is sometimes hard to find, particularly on magazines, newspapers, and some other types of mail. Where should I look ?

A13: Return addresses on magazines are often located inside the front cover, on the title page with publishing information, or on the paper or plastic wrapper in which the magazine is shipped.

For newspapers, look for the return address information at the top of the front page, above the headline, or inside the paper near the publishing information or masthead on the editorial page.

Q14: I received notice that the postal carrier tried to deliver a package while I wasn't home and that I should pick the package up at the post office. Do I record the notice as mail received, and if so, where should I record it ?

A14: Please, do NOT count the notice as mail received. Record the package as a package received on the day that you actually pick it up at the post office.

Q15: I have some personal mail sent to me at my office. Should I include that in the count of mail I receive ?

A15: No. Please include ONLY personal mail sent to your home address.

Q16: Some of my mail goes to a post office box, and other mail is sent to my home address. Should I count both ?

A16: No. Please include ONLY the mail sent to your home address.


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Need additional information ?

For more information about the study, please call the Survey Hotline, or send an email to

  • For information on how to complete the diary, call the toll-free survey hotline at 1-888-441-USPS (8777).

  • For information about your thank-you gift, call the toll-free survey hotline at 1-888-441-USPS (8777). Please allow a minimum of 10-12 weeks after mailing in your completed diaries for delivery of your gift.

  • John Mazzone of the U.S. Postal Service at or call 202-268-4169.

  • To request a copy of the latest Household Diary Study report, send an e-mail to or go to

  • USPS Privacy Policy


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