Will Postal Carriers Act as Census Enumerators for the 2020 US Census?

The U.S. Constitution requires a census of all residents every ten years. However, the effort for the 2020 Census is in turmoil. (See http://bit.ly/2uAbHl7 and http://bit.ly/2xiqlCb for two of my recent articles describing the chaos.) In the last two or three collections of census data, the time required to plan the census, hire the right people, and to train them required 3 or 4 years of advance planning. Unfortunately, there is only 2 years and a few months left until the next scheduled census. This creates a big question: how to plan, hire, and train the enumerators (people who take the census) in this short time?

Now the Census Bureau has a new suggestion: use Postal Service employees to perform the census.

A notice in the Federal Register asks for comments about the proposal, even though little information is given about the proposal.

The Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Pilot of USPS Postal Carriers as Census Enumerators During the 2018 End-to-End Census Test states:

“The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.”

It also states:

“Method of Collection”

“Census Bureau staff will train Postal Carriers to successfully conduct enumeration to complete the activity. Postal Carriers will be sworn to uphold the same confidentiality as Census Bureau employees. They will perform enumeration functions using the same procedures and automation as other enumerators during the hours of 5 p.m.-8 p.m. on weekdays, variable weekend hours, and both inside and outside the geographic constraints of their assigned routes.”

The Proposal suggests conducting pilot studies in two small towns: North Attleboro, Massachusetts and Warwick, Rhode Island. While the two towns are in two different states, they are actually only about 25 miles apart. Both are in The Providence, Rhode Island, suburbs.

There is more to the notice. You can read all of it at http://bit.ly/2hl7QDd.

Written comments must be submitted on or before November 20, 2017.

My thanks to the several newsletter readers who sent me messages about the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register.


Use the police, as they did with the 1890 NYC Police Census.


yeah right! has any one actually polled the Postal Dept on this?? for many of the postal folks that I know . this seems beyond silly . AND they tell me that they are short handed as is, just getting the mail properly disbursed .


The Post Office can’t even deliver our weekly ads on Tuesdays. They are very lazy. I don’t see them taking the census very seriously.


Postal workers I know are already overtaxed in trying to make do with reduced staff. Plus, in rural areas, door-to-door would be difficult because of distance and time. Security and access issues aside, an electronic census could work for some households, For those without Internet access, a prepaid mailed paper option could work. Hardly the best alternatives, but better than not doing any census.


In many rural areas the mail delivery is farmed out to independant contracrtors. I can’t imagine they would be willing to do this withou considerable restitution.


THIS will NOT happen…… the 2020 census, the president will declare that there is no need for a census for it will just be a waste of govt. money, and that we have no need to have a census in order to make America GREAT again….. so don’t fret over this…… relax, NO CENSUS is needed!!!!!


I think it sounds like a good idea. In my area postal workers know their routes and who lives there. I worked on the 1990 census. I went to a neighborhood I didn’t know. We had to verify who lived at each address and look for apartments or new houses, we could ask neighbors. People were suspicious of us, but they might be more cooperative with a postal worker. The census forms are mailed. Then census workers follow up with those who don’t answer.


There are still a few of us left in small towns who don’t have delivery – we must rent a PO box and go to the post office to pick up our mail…can’t imagine the three workers at our office have time to do more than they are tasked with now.


Census officials were too interested in technology rather than the census. Even elections are going back to paper.
The post office can deliver and collect the forms. Most will complete the forms


I’m not sure it would work. Lots of mail delivery is not door to door anymore, but to central neighborhood boxes that may have anywhere from something like 6 boxes on a cul-de-sac to hundreds of boxes for an apartment or condo complex. Plus, many households have no one home during the day. In the past few census, census takers often had to go around in the evenings to find people home for those who hadn’t filled one out. That would mean either 12+ hour days for postal workers, or changing hours of delivery. Who want to get their mail delivered at 8 p.m.? I doubt either would go over or work.


Since the USPS signed its contract to deliver packages for Amazon 7 days a week, the accuracy of mail delivery in my community has dropped considerably. Lost mail and mail delivered to the wrong address has increased exponentially. When I complain (in person) the local postmaster shrugs his shoulders and simply asserts they are doing the best they can with limited resources. There is no way they can produce an accurate census. I
If the government is behind on planning, it would be best for Congress to vote a 1 or two year delay and conduct a proper census than to try to throw together something that will have many errors.


I’m sorry but we seem to be swallowing the lame bait by discussing off-sourcing a Constitutionally-required task from those whose actual job it is to others whose job it is not. It is not helpful to divert attention. The Census Bureau’s main job is to conduct the census. If they are behind, they need to catch up. It’s what I would have to do in any job I ever had. The one time saving piece appears to me that it might be possible is to limit the number of attempts to gather the stragglers and outliers and hostiles who do not respond through the usual channels and within the time frame given. If you don’t wish to be counted, understand that it means you don’t care about your state’s funding, or fairness in representation, or any host of other things.


    The census was never intended to be about anything other than how many people lived in a state. Adding the nonsense about how money is divided only made things worse. The feds should only spend money on what the Constitution covered instead of adding all these extra things that should be covered under state, county, and local governments. At some point, the feds won’t be able to borrow money because the debt load is too toxic. At that point, they will be forced to release control.
    The bigger question is why didn’t the last administration start the ball rolling before it left office since it should have started by April 1, 2016 which was before the current administration took over.


    Don’t forget that the census was done by Federal Marshals for many years.


In 2000 and 2010 all I did was fill out a post card that was delivered to me by the Post Office and return it by mail in a pre-paid envelope. This is what should be done in 2020. I also know that something like 1 in 17 people received a long form that asks all kinds of questions unrelated to representation in Congress. Get rid of these long forms and there will be no need for census takers. Yes, there are people who don’t return the post cards, but that’s life. Those who can’t be bothered probably don’t deserve to be “used” to determine representation.


going to be a lot of people missed …. especially citizens living outside the country


I cannot imagine the post office handling this correctly as they have miserably messed up my mail for almost a year!!! Also, why on earth could it take 3-4 YEARS to train people to do this????? AND, why has this process not been started before this????


This is such a lazy way for our understaffed Federal Departments to farm out their responsibilities. I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this, but this administration has gotten rid of so many departments and employees, that many of the jobs that were previously done by them, are not getting done at all. This is truly a disgusting and ridiculous way to destroy our government, every citizen should be out their screaming “No!” to this, and to tell the administration, to do their jobs.

Liked by 1 person

Patience my fellow genealogists… settle down.. The administration is ‘Making America Great Again’ – one can’t expect them to count people too!


The USPS cannot deliver mail accurately and consistently. I thought I was alone in my frustration until I read these comments. Why would postal carriers be hired to do the census work? Why didn’t the planning start two-three years ago? The census information is really important and must not be poorly collected.


    Because we do not need a census taking any more! Regardless of your own political views, the rulers in D.C. will now pass out your / our tax dollars in what ever way they see fit…. and they will use those dollars to “bribe”
    your / our other elected folks to do IT THEIR way…. so THAT removes the need for any census….. period, discussion over with!


    —> so THAT removes the need for any census….. period, discussion over with!

    Except that a census every ten years is REQUIRED by the U.S. Constitution, the highest law in the land. Neither a presidential executive order nor a normal Congressional bill can overrule the Constitution. The only way the requirements specified by the U.S. Constitution may be changed is by an amendment to the Constitution.

    Amendments may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a convention of states called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures. To become part of the Constitution, an amendment must be ratified by either—as determined by Congress—the legislatures of three-quarters of the states or state ratifying conventions in three-quarters of the states.

    There is no other method.


Why not send out a letter to previous census takers from the 2010 census and hire them again. Minimal training would be required since they have experience. I was a census taker then and remember a lot.


The 2010 census was a complete dud, genealologically. The process was terrible. I filled out the form, returned as directed and STILL got a phone call and another census taker at door saying I needed to “fill out this form.” The USPS doesn’t have enough staff to do this chore. If they have waited this long to think about 2020 process, the 2020 Census should be even worse.


Does this proposal assume a visit by the postal worker (census taker) to each home or simply delivery of a questionnaire in the mail?


I cannot see how there could be any cost savings having postal carriers acting as census enumerators. The postal service is unionized and carriers are very well paid. The proposal is for carriers to make their regular deliveries until 5 p.m., then (I suppose) go door to door enumerating the census from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. This means that the census work would be done on overtime – time and a half. Unless the department of commerce actually is so clueless to assume that carriers would forego overtime pay out of civic virtue (gag me with a spoon).
How about using retirees (like me). We tend to have good work habits and ethics and would not expect to get paid overtime to enumerate the census. There are a LOT of retirees that would be very willing to work for the census.


This never going to work. Our postal carriers are mostly temps and see different ones during the week and deliver at all hours. Most cannot speak or read English well, let alone know to tie their shoe laces. I can not imagine what will happen to my mail delivery during the times they are door to door taking census data. It will be all over the place. And just what will they write down that is any better from some of the past censuses. Government screw up!


TERRIBLE idea!!! I worked the 2010 census…It was bad enough because of the questions’ wording, and we had special training!


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