USPS OIG: The Price of a Stamp – An International Comparison

  • In part due to the scale and scope of the U.S. Mail market as well as differences in regulatory frameworks ‚ÄĒ such as universal service obligations and price caps ‚ÄĒ the 2023 price of a standard domestic letter in the U.S. was nearly half the average price in our 31 sampled countries.
  • Stamp prices in the U.S. have also increased at a slower pace than most other posts in the sample from June 2018 to June 2023.
  • In the U.S., the price of a single-piece 1-ounce letter increased by 26 percent, 5 percentage points above inflation, which increased by 21 percent from June 2018 to June 2023.
  • When considering purchasing power, the U.S. ranked as the most affordable national operator in the sample to send a standard domestic letter in June 2023.

The Postal Service relies almost entirely on the revenue generated from postage to fulfill its public mission and cover the costs of delivering mail. As mail volumes decline and operational costs increase, USPS has sought to cover its costs by generating more revenue through increases in the price of postage. Record levels of inflation and additional pricing authorities have recently led to notable increases in the price of Market Dominant mail, including the highest revenue generating class of mail, First-Class Mail. Specifically, First-Class Mail has seen more frequent price increases and a higher percentage of price increases since August 2021.

In this white paper, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed the prices of standard domestic letters ‚ÄĒ the equivalent to a one-ounce single piece First-Class Mail letter in the United States ‚ÄĒ offered to retail customers from June 2018 to June 2023 across a sample of 31 countries.

The United States is by far the largest market for the delivery of domestic mail. The Postal Service handled half of the world’s domestic mail (50.2 percent) in 2021 and had among the highest mail volume per capita globally. Besides standard domestic letters, the U.S. has a sizeable market for commercial First-Class Mail and Marketing Mail. In part due to the scale and scope of the U.S. mail market and differences in regulatory frameworks, the Postal Service offered a 2023 nominal price ($0.63 in June 2023) that was nearly half the average price of a standard domestic letter in the countries in the sample ($1.20).

Stamp prices in the U.S. have also increased at a slower pace than most other posts in the sample. The price of a stamp increased by 26 percent from June 2018 to June 2023 ($0.50 to $0.63), which is less than half of the average increase for our sample size (55 percent) during that period. Additionally, prices increased an average of 31 percentage points over inflation for the countries in the sample, while the price of a stamp in the United States was 5 percentage points above the rising costs of goods and services from June 2018 to June 2023.

Lastly, the OIG compared the affordability of each country’s stamp by taking purchasing power into consideration. Despite some other countries having a lower nominal stamp price, the United States in June 2023 ranked as the most affordable national operator in the OIG’s sample to send a standard domestic letter, at nearly one third (35 percent) of the average price of the countries in the sample ($1.81).


Kevin Mersol-Barg, Aaron Anfinson, Jacqueline Isero, Jennifer Hall, and John Althen contributed to this report.

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Source: USPS OIG

Related: U.S. Postal Service Recommends New Prices for July 2024

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