Census Tract Demographics by ZIP Code

.. analyzing census tract demographics by ZIP code … a wide range of demographic-economic data for census tracts and ZIP code areas are now developed annually as a part of the American Community Survey (ACS). Census tract and ZIP code area demographics are popular for examining characteristics of sub-county areas. This section reviews use of resources to analyze census tract demographics in context of ZIP code areas. For many analytical and decision-making applications these methods might be preferred to analyzing ZIP code area demographics alone. See related Web section for more detail on topics covered here.

Census tracts provide a more granular geography than ZIP code areas, have well known boundaries, have little change over the decade and provide a more uniform population size, averaging 4,000 population. Census tracts are more suitable for demographic analysis as compared to ZIP code areas. Yet, users of these data seek to understand patterns by ZIP code areas. This section reviews how that can be done. The applications make use of census tract demographics based on the ACS 2013 5-year estimates.

Geographic Information System (GIS) resources are used here. The census tract to ZIP code area relationship can also be be shown in an equivalence table. See the census tract to ZIP Code area interactive equivalence table. While the equivalence table is very useful, use of GIS tools offer a much more powerful method of understanding demographic-economic relationships. These applications are focused on the Chicago area, but the same set of resources can be used anywhere in the U.S.

Patterns of Economic Prosperity by Census Tract
The graphic presented below shows patterns of the economic prosperity (median household income/MHI) by census tract in the Chicago area. MHI intervals and corresponding colors are shown in the legend at the left of the map. It is easy to see where concentrations of high and low MHI exist by census tract.

Click graphic for larger view; view developed with CV XE GIS.
Map view developed using TractZIP GIS Project.

Relating ZIP Codes to Census Tracts
The graphic presented below shows a view similar to the map shown above. In this view ZIP code areas have been added. ZIP code areas are shown by black boundaries and labeled with the ZIP Code. As above, it is easy to see where concentrations of high and low MHI exist by census tract are located and now — how the distribution relates to ZIP code areas. Click graphic for larger view that shows ZIP codes as labels.

Click graphic for larger view; view developed with CV XE GIS.
Map view developed using TractZIP GIS Project.

Neighborhood Drill-Down
The graphic presented below shows a zoom-in view in the vicinity of the pointer in the map shown above. ZIP code areas have a bolder black boundary and ZIP codes are shown as labels. K-12 school locations have been added, illustrating how yet other area characteristics can be integrated. The tracts thematic pattern layer is shown with see-through transparency enabling a background view of highways and related earth surface geography.

Relating Tract Codes/Areas to ZIP Codes/ZIP Code Areas
The graphic presented below shows a zoom-in view of ZIP code view similar to the map shown above. In this view the focus is placed on ZIP code area 60622 — it could be any ZIP code. This view shows the ZIP code with white label and census tracts with yellow labels. It is easy to see which census tracts intersect with ZIP code 60622, which tracts are wholly versus partly included in the ZIP code area and the MHI for each tract intersecting ZIP code 60622.

Analyzing Areas of Interest — Using the GIS Resources
Install the GIS software and project used to develop map views presented above for areas of interest. Add other types of geography such as geocoded address data. Select alternative demographic-economic measures. Create custom map graphics. See the main Web section for details.

About the Author
— Warren Glimpse is former senior Census Bureau statistician responsible for innovative data access and use operations. He is also the former associate director of the U.S. Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards for data access and use. He has more than 20 years of experience in the private sector developing data resources and tools for integration and analysis of geographic, demographic, economic and business data.

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