Which Rural Communities Will be Devastated by U.S. Postal Service Cutbacks?

4 mins read

The U.S. Postal Service is the lifeblood of many rural communities. Seniors, veterans and farmers will all suffer from cutbacks.

Where will the cuts hurt the most? Which communities are most at risk? Who are the politicians who represent these rural districts and should be protesting these cuts?

“The Postal Service is a public service required to serve every address, no matter how remote. More than 75,000 people work directly for the Postal Service in the fifteen states with the largest share of their population in rural areas. The total mailing industry employs nearly 700,000 people and generates more than $150 billion in revenue per year in these heavily rural states. Twelve of these states have larger than average shares of 65 and older residents, a group that tends to rely heavily on USPS for medicine, bill paying, and other services.” – Institute for Policy Studies

Mapping the devastation from U.S.P.S. cuts with Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

It’s easier to understand information when presented in context. What looks harmless on its own becomes a lot more sinister when overlaid with other details. DemLabs took three related facts and combined them into a single map to reveal where these cuts will hurt the most.
1. Where do the elderly and those with severe health conditions live
2. Where are the U.S. Postal Service Sorting Centers and may be closed
3. Who are the politicians that represent these districts
This information (called data layers) was combined into a single map using ArcGIS Online.

Combining different data layers provide more insights. Here the elderly, those with health conditions, U.S. Postal Sorting Centers and political districts are shown.
Mapping three layers - the elderly, those with health conditions, rural communities, U.S. Postal Sorting Centers and the politicians who represent those areas.

Visualization makes dry facts interesting and easier to follow

Maps can be hard to understand. It’s much easier when maps are presented as a story with images, videos and news headlines. We took the combined map and created an online story on how cutting the USPS will ruin many rural communities with StoryMap, a free app. The story is designed to be read in under two minutes, but packed with facts that can be explored further. The story can be updated with new developments and easily shared with this link. The story explains:
1. What is the mission of the US Postal Service? How board is its coverage? How is it different than UPS and FedEx?
2. Where do seniors and those with disabilities live in rural areas?
3. Where are the U.S. Postal Sorting Centers which are being threatened with closure
4. Who is behind these cutbacks? Who is PostMaster General Lois DeJoy? How does he profit personally from cutting the USPS?
5. Who is the Congressman representing these rural districts?
6. How can readers contact their elected official? Tips on making an effective call to your elected official.

StoryMap shows how cuts to the U.S. Postal Service will ruin many rural communities and jeopardize the health of their residents.

Takeaway: Use data visualization to make it easier for people to understand what’s at stake and do something about it.

Politicians often rely on their constituents not understanding how their actions (and inaction) affects their lives. Make it easier for people to understand what’s really going on, and what they can do about it. Apps like ArcGIS Online and StoryMaps make it easier to get your point across.


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Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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