What Your ZIP Code Says About You

Is your neighborhood full of laptops and lattes? Pleasantville-style domesticity? City strivers? This map will tell you.

How much can where you live say about who you are? According to a new interactive map by geographic information firm Esri, a whole hell of a lot. Esri’s “Tapestry Segmentation” database mines socioeconomic and demographic data to create a picture of who lives in each ZIP code–i.e., what marketers assume about you based on your particular neighborhood or city. Using Tapestry‘s 67 neighborhood classifications for socioeconomic and demographic characteristics–complete with cutesy names like “American Dreamers,” “Front Porches,” “High Rise Renters,” and “Diners and Miners”–Esri has created an interactive map of the U.S. called ZIP Lookup that lets you dig deep into the stereotypical lives of residents of your ZIP code, along with their average and income, and the neighborhood’s density.

Las Vegas, NV

So, in case you were wondering, here are a few things marketers think they can tell about you just based on where you live: Whether you listen to “urban radio” (i.e. a huge category of radio stations encompassing hip hop, R&B, rap, EDM, and more), whether you want a great deal on brand-name clothing, whether you hit the gym or shop at Trader Joe’s regularly, and whether you’re looking to invest in a mutual fund.

Now, how much truth there is in these broad characterizations is questionable. Does an entire ZIP code really listen to the same type of radio? I’m living in a neighborhood full of avid runners, but that doesn’t mean I hit the gym or care about my health. What it does tell you, in massive generalizations, is how valuable your neighborhood could be to companies looking to sell you stuff.

When I search the ZIP code of my college apartment, ESRI labels me a flighty, economically irresponsible millennial ready to be exploited for capitalist gain: “Managing our own money is new to us, so we tend to splurge on impulse purchases such as the latest fashions. We can be influenced by celebrity endorsements and trends we see in magazines.” Bring on the Taylor Swift endorsement! When I search for the ZIP code of my agricultural hometown, I discover 13% of the population apparently watches the Discovery Channel and unspecified “Hispanic Programs” and loves scrapbooking, while “prosperous domesticity pervades” 23% of the population, all of whom love to remodel their houses, according to Esri’s research. My Brooklyn neighborhood is home to 6% of “Trendsetters,” who prefer e-readers and tablets “for everything except women’s fashion and epicurean magazines which must be in print.” That’s right, my neighbors like their food magazines in print, thank you very much.

Big data and marketing: Always creepy.

Check it out for yourself here.


About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.