Supplement to What?
In the late 1990's we created the original ZIP Code Resources Page,
containing a variety of information and tools related to ZIP codes. While much of what we talked about in
that document was not time-specific, some of it was. It talked about the status of ZIP codes in the mid-90's and links to data
all refrenced then-current 1990's-vintage resources. Around 2001 we created the updated
Version 2 of the document. References to various
datasets and tools were updated to point to the new post-2000 vintage resources. And now (2012 - 2013), the 2010 census has come and gone and we
are dealing with the 2010 cycle of ZCTA's from the Census Bureau, plus a new way of getting demographic data involving the replacing of
Summary File 3 (decennial census product) with data based on the new American Community Survey (ACS). Rather than create an entire new
Version 3 document we have decided, at least for now, to merely create this supplement (to Version 2). Here we shall deal only with what's
new in the world of ZIP codes in the decade of the 2010's. For general information, or information related specifically to ZIP codes as they
existed in the two earlier decades we refer you to the original pair of documents.
The New 2010 ZCTAs
We first we saw of the 2010 edition of the ZIP Code Tract Areas was in the spring of 2011 with the release of the SF1 (Summary File 1) data
product. As they did in 2000, the Bureau defined the new ZCTA's as an aggregation of the current census blocks. Which are now, of course, 2010 blocks. They updated their ZCTA geography page to reflect the new version. They noted that the experiment with creating the HH and XX pseudo-ZCTAs was dropped for this decade. Probably because they
caused so much confusion among users. Readers of this page (previous link) should focus on the paragraph beginning It is important to note the following: .
New (Post-2010) ZCTA Master Data Set
An important resource created by the MCDC is the master data set where we combine geographic and demographic data regarding ZCTAs. The
version of this data set created to describe the 2000-vintage ZCTAs has been renamed to zcta_master07. We have replaced (i.e. written over with new data) the zcta_master data set so that it now describes the 2010 ZCTAs, and contains demographic indicators taken from the most recently available American Community Survey data. We initially created this new version in 2012, and it used our estimated ZCTA level data allocated from 2006-2010 tract-level period estimates. In August, 2013 we did a major update of the zcta_master and used official 2007-2011 ZCTA-level ACS data for the first time. The data set now contains the current Congressional District codes (113th congress) as well as the updated ("2012") PUMA codes. We also have updated
the various metropolitan area codes: cbsa (Core Based Statistical Area, i.e. Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Micropolitan S.A.s), Metropolitan
Divisions and Combined Statistical Areas (CSAs).
The Missouri Census Data Center offers a simple web application that lets you display the zcta_master data for a specified ZIP code.
Invoke display_zctamaster .
New United States Zip Codes Web Site
We were recently referred to a new web site - http://www.unitedstateszipcodes.org/
which appears to overlap extensively (in terms of content) with our own "All about ZIP code..." pages. But it includes some ZIP lookup and mapping tools that ZIP
code users should find very useful. It also features information about shipping rates between ZIP codes for USPS, FedEx and UPS. It has a
free downloadable database, but it also has one that it sells for $29.95. We have not yet had time to use this site much but it certainly
has the look of a very useful resource.
2010 Decennial Census Data
Summary File 1 contains data tables summarizing the results of the 2010 decennial census survey. (The 2010 census did not include a long form, only a short form.) Data for ZIP codes (or ZCTA's, to be move precides) appear with Summary Level codes of 871 (ZCTA within state) on the individual state files. The national file has summaries for all ZCTA's in the nation and has three summary levels: 860 (complete ZCTA's); 870 (ZCTA's within state - same data as the 871 summaries on the state files but with a different SumLev code just to confuse you); and 880 (ZCTA within county). Since over 90% of all ZCTA's are contained within a single county you mostly get three copies of the same tabular data on the national file. These data can be accessed via the American FactFinder query application at the Census Bureau, or they can be accessed from the Missouri Census Data Center's public data archive using the Uexplore/Dexter query tools. Specifically, go to (sf12010 to access the full tables or
sf12010x to access the much smaller (but often more useful) standard extract data. The latter can also be accessed using our Standard Summary File 1 (2010 Census) Extract Assistant web app. The SF1 Census Profile lets you generate formatted profile reports for up to 4 geographic areas at once, with ZCTA among the levels available.
American Community Survey Data
If you are not familiar with the ACS we recommend you see our American Community Survey page for basic background information. Basically, ACS does for 2010 data what SF3 did for 2000 data. Except that it is not simple one-point-in-time data derived from a census, but instead uses survey data collected over a 5-year period (2008-2012 is/was the latest available as of Jan, 2014). New data are normally released in December each year.
You can access these data from the American FactFinder web application at the Census Bureau. You can also access ZCTA data from the MCDC's data archive using Uexplore/Dexter, or by viewing data
for ZCTAs in profile report format. Here are the key links:
- Access the MCDC's standard profile for any ZCTA in the country starting at the ACS Profiles main menu page. [Select the latest 5-year period (2009-2013 when this was written but it may be later when you read this) and then "ZIP Codes (ZCTA)" as the area type. Then choose the state (Missouri is the default) and then the individual ZCTA(s). You can choose up to 4 geographic areas for the report; this can be four ZCTAs, or you can mix and match with data for other area types.
- If you like the data you see in the the MCDC's Profile reports, but would like to access it in bulk for manipulation in a spreadsheet for for data mapping then you should use the MCDC's companion application ACS Profile Extract Assistant. This application makes it easy for you to extract 5-year period estimates (latest available data only). Just choose the state(s), the geographic units (presumably "5-digit ZIP code (ZCTA)") and then the subject tables. Running the application takes you to a
Dexter query form that is ready to be submitted to complete the extract using Dexter.
- If you are Dexter savvy you can access the ZCTA data directory via Uexplore/Dexter. We started making ZCTA level data available
for 2007-2011, but you should probably only be interested in the latest available data. Using earlier estimates to view trends will not work since the intervals are overlapping. When comparing 2008-2012 data with 2009-2013 data you need to be aware that about 80% of the survey respondents for these two tabulations are the same households! To access the latest ACS data start at the U/D home page - http://mcdc.missouri.edu/applications/uexplore.shtml and choose American Community Survey from the "Major Category Index" box. Choose the first (most recent) acs data directory (e.g. acs2013). Open the Datasets.html file in the acs2013 data directory and look for the entry for U.S. ZCTAs (named uszctas5yr). Click on the data set name to invoke Dexter for accessing that set.
(If you are not "Dexter savvy" but would like to become so, you should access the link to the Dexter Quick Start Guide which is linked to from both the Uexplore/Dexter home page and at the top of each Dexter query form.)
- To access the more detailed "base tables" for ZCTAs you also need to access the latest ACS data directory (e.g. acs2013) but then choose the subdirectory btabs5yr. In that directory you'll see a Varlabs subdirectory containing the metadata needed to see what data are available (complete table titles, universes and detailed cell labels). There are six data sets with ZCTA-level data for the 5-year period. The TableTopicCodes.txt file shows the set of six "Topic Groups" (our invention, used to organize the tables into 6 subsets of related topics) and 2-digit topic codes. For example, topic code 17 is for Poverty and is part of topic group 17-20. So if you want to
access data related to poverty for ZCTAs you would be looking in the data set uszctas17_20.
Just as we have 3 versions of ZIP Code Resources documents for three decades we now have three versions of the MABLE/Geocorr geographic correspondence engine for the same three decades. The new 2012 version is at http://mcdc.missouri.edu/websas/geocorr12.html. You can use this to relate the new codes to all the others such as counties, metro areas, urban/rural, PUMAs (both old and new), 2010 census tracts, congressional districts, etc. (This 2012 version of MABLE/Geocorr replaces the interim 2010 version which is no longer supported).
Correlation List Files Relate ZIP Codes to Common Geographies
The previous paragraph describes the MABLE/Geocorr12 tool which you can use to generate "correlation lists" -
files that define the correlation of one type of geography (such as ZCTAs) to another. We have used this tool
to create a directory of commonly requested equivalencies where the "Source" gecode is the 2010 ZCTA and the
target geographies vary for each file in the directory. You can access this collection at
Initially we have stored files relating 2010 ZCTAs to
We could have gone on and generated many more such files. But instead what we did was provide you with a file,
geocorr12_queryform.html, which you can use to rather easily generate your own. Just browse this form and modify the selection of the Target geocodes before hitting a Run Request button to generate
a national file. Or, if all you care about is one state, you can modify the default selecting of all the states and generate a file that is just what you need. It is very easy, for example, to generate a ZCTA to Congressional District file just for Missouri. Or for Texas, or Tennessee, etc.
- metro areas (aka CBSAs) (2 files: 1 uses 2012-vintage defns and the other 2013 vintage)
- PUMAs (both 2000 and "2012")
- Urban/Rural (what portion of the ZCTA's population live in areas classified as Urban vs.
Rural, using the latest definition based on results of the 2010 census).
- Congressional District (113th congress)
Resource Relates ZIP Codes to ZCTAs
NOTE: This resource is based on the Excel spreadsheet posted by John Snow, Inc., which we downloaded and stored as a .csv file (referenced below) in the fall of 2015 (updated 11-2-2015 from previous version that was vintage 2010). You can "go to the source" for these data at http://udsmapper.org/zcta-crosswalk.cfm. (They may be
later than 2015 when you access in 2016 or later.)
We sometimes like to think of ZIP codes and ZCTA's as more or less the same thing, the only difference being that ZCTA's are "rounded off" to census blocks while real ZIP codes are not. That is more or less true when talking about standard residential ZIP codes. But there are others; ZIP codes that are neither "standard" nor residential. The ZIP code for Reader"s Digest, for the North Pole (Santa Claus), for the University of Missouri, for Camp Pendleton, for Google headquarters, etc.
These are the special (aka "point", "unique", etc.) ZIP codes that are important to the post office and to the entities that use them to receive their mail. But they are not spatial areas (they are points in most cases) and people do not live in them. The ZIP code 65211, for example, is assigned to the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. If you want to send me a package here at my office it will be expedited if you use the 65211 ZIP code.
But you can also use ZIP 65201 and the folks at the post office will know to put it in the 65211 cubbyhole because they just know where it is. If there were no 65211 then 65201 is the residential ZIP code where the campus is located so that it is what would be used.
A new dataset stored in our public archive provides a crosswalk between all (or at least mostly all) current ZIP codes and the ZCTA's to which they correspond. For standard residential ZIP codes it's simple; they are the same codes. For ZIP code 65211 the ZCTA is 65201. You can either access the original downloaded csv file or you can use Dexter to access the converted dataset (zip_2_zcta15) .
We created an alternate version of these data in the form of a SAS format module (that lets us do easy table lookups within SAS data steps, which is
quite handy if you are a SAS programmer, but totally not relevant if you are not.)