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What Your Zip Code Says About You

Can you really tell much about a person from their ZIP code alone? As it turns out, there may be quite a bit of information hidden in those digits. Esri, a geographic information system company, has created an interactive map filled with demographic data based on geographical location.

Users can simply go to this website, enter a ZIP code, and receive a bevy of information about the residents who live there. Esri’s “Tapestry Segmentation” database breaks each ZIP code down into its socioeconomic and demographic data. This data reflects what marketers would most likely assume about you based on your particular neighborhood.

The data is presented in the form of 67 different neighborhood categories, with monikers like “metro fusion,” “laptops and lattes,” and “green acres.” These categories give descriptive information about the typical life of the residents in each ZIP code, breaking down how people spend their money, what they like to do for fun, what types of foods they eat, and how they live their lives.

Image © Alan Light via Fast Company

Image © Alan Light via Fast Company

For example, a “green acres” type would be married, enjoy quiet country life, vegetable gardening, and taking care of their own remodeling projects. They would have modest amounts of debt, and would not consider technology to be a big priority. These detailed profiles of typical residents are displayed along with the neighborhood’s average income, age, and population density.

While this information is indeed interesting, how correct can it be? For example, is it fair to assume that an entire ZIP code attends rock concerts for fun, or eats at fast food restaurants? Probably not. The map is designed to give a glimpse into the minds of marketers in the form of vast generalizations and stereotypes. There’s simply no way that these categories will be realistic of everyone’s preferences, but they can give us impressions of overarching patterns.


Image © Wikipedia

So what does this interactive map say about Boulder? Boulder obviously contains quite a few different ZIP codes, and it’s interesting to see how much the data varies across different neighborhoods in the town.  For example, if you enter ZIP code 80302, you’ll find categories like, “college towns,” describing the residents as tech-savvy students who live in apartments or dorms and tend to be impulse buyers. In ZIP 80304, or “emerald city,” residents supposedly shop for organic foods, practice yoga, and enjoy skiing–all popular activities in Boulder.

While Esri’s interactive map can be a useful tool to get an overall look at a ZIP code’s character, it certainly doesn’t paint a complete portrait of the varied types of individuals that comprise a neighborhood.

What does the map say about your ZIP code? Do you think this map has some validity to it, or are you skeptical?

Check out Esri’s interactive map here.

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