Thinking About Zip Codes

Do you ever think about ZIP codes? Well I do.

ZIP Codes are a location element we’re all familiar with. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest most of us know the ZIP code we currently live in and the ZIP code we grew up in. For some of us, that could be just one ZIP code. For me, it’s two.

While ZIP codes may seem static to most of us, ZIP codes do change from time to time. ZIPs get added and deleted depending on US Postal Service mail delivery changes. Postal routes get added and deleted and that impacts ZIP codes. 

It’s good to keep in mind that no mapping application is perfect. Any mapping services you subscribe to will have address, ZIP code or general map errors from time to time. Microsoft MapPoint was obsoleted in 2014. I don’t believe Microsoft updated map data and ZIP codes for at least five years prior to 2014. At least, I can’t find evidence that MapPoint provided updates in their final period. #Epicfail Microsoft.

Anyway, as a whole system ZIP codes can cause some confusion.  Here’s a list of basic facts that might help some users reconsider the lowly ZIP codes in their lives.

·         The ZIP code system was implemented by the US Post Office in the 1960’s to help systematize mail deliveries and improve efficiencies. ZIP stands for Zone Improvement Plan

·         ZIP codes areas are not defined by the Post Office but are instead developed by multiple third-party geography providers and can sometimes vary slightly. While we common folk think of ZIP codes as areas the USPS really sees them as delivery routes. 

·         ZIP codes come in several types including Point ZIPs (military facilities, skyscrapers) and Boundary ZIPs. Read more here

·         Realtor.com says that the hottest real estate market ZIP code across the USA is 17618 Watauga TX.   Really?

·         ZIP code 79936 is the highest populated ZIP code and is located in El Paso Texas with 114,734 people. What’s with Texas and ZIP codes?

·         ZIP code 12345 belongs to GE’s Schenectady, NY office and is a point ZIP code located with in boundary ZIP code 12306

ZIP code maps are a common use of Map Business Online. ZIP codes are used in business mapping software for a territory mapping base-map layer.  ZIP codes are a great geography for the segmentation and display of demographic data. Many MBO users import customer data by ZIP code, a practice I generally frown upon because full addressing is much more accurate.

ZIP codes are often color shaded, sometimes referred to as heat mapped, to reflect numeric break points in imported data or demographic data. A common example of this is election results by ZIP code – did the ZIP code go Blue or Red?

I took the liberty of analyzing MBO Demographic Data by ZIP code to share some interesting stats in this blog. Here they are:

·         The ZIP code that will spend the most on alcoholic beverages in 2017 is 90231, Culver City, CA, at $1,736 on average per person per year. They out-spent the runner-up ZIP code 45848 Glandorf, OH by quite a bit 

·         ZIP code 10025 in New York had the highest projected expenditures overall all at $2,437,347,908. Yup. Interestingly, Culver City CA didn’t even place, comparatively. So, we dug into that. Turns out Culver City is mostly Hollywood movie studios. You tell me what they do with all that booze?

·         Finally, I know you’re dying to know which ZIP code has the most people over the age of 85. The winner is 85351 in Sun City, AZ home to some 9,871 octogenarians and older in 2017

So the next time you’re putting an address on a package take a moment and consider the lowly ZIP code, without which the mail would take longer to deliver and Christmas would be ruined.

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Contact: Geoffrey Ives geoffives@spatialteq.com or Jason Henderson jhenderson@spatialteq.com

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