Review: Does Your Zip Code Determine What You Buy?

Today I found a blog from The Wall Street Journal about how the zip code that you live in could dictate who you are.  Mapping behemoth ESRI mashed Census data along with marketing data from GfK Mediamark Research & Intelligence and tries to predict what you will buy according to the zip code you live in.

The mapping piece is beautiful, the map moves smoothly and the graphics are top notch. The descriptions of the socio-economic levels are stereotypical and questionable.

I did some spot checking around my area  in South Jersey to see how the data compares to my own local knowledge.  I gave to say that in the zip code that I live in ESRI did get the fact that there are a lot of apartment dwellers in my hometown correct.  What they did not get right was the fact that a lot of these apartment dwellers are not millennials, instead they are middle class families. Looking at the Census data can tell you that.

I also found the categories in the “Top Tapestry Segments” incredibly insensitive and stereotypical.

Case in point: Camden City Zip Code 08110

This area in Camden is broken down into:

36% American Dreamers: Basically foreign born married couples and older people

30% Parks and Rec: People who live in older more established communities

18% Urban Villages: Recent immigrants who do not speak fluent English

The Urban Village description is the one I find most offensive.  “Shopping for trendy clothes for the whole family is important so we can be fashionable”.  Why is this connected to the urban poor?  Why play up to stereotypes? I think that this map has some really good uses but I think that it delivers its message poorly.

Check out the map here and feel free to leave your comments.

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Why I Set Up This Site.

I realized a few days ago that I didn’t write a a post about why I launched this blog.  So I’ll take this opportunity to write about why this blog was created and what you will get out of it.

In my professional life I work with people and organizations who are looking for data to beef up their grants, reports and business plans.  Either they are in the process of starting a business/grant writing or they already have a plan in place and need to fine-tune it.  This is where I come in and educate them on the types of data that are available for them.  I always steer clients towards free data as there is a plethora of them waiting to be used.

So this blog will be a stage to showcase what I have used in the past and what I discover during my own research.  I’ll discuss government data, business data and GIS/mapping resources that I think will be beneficial for the public to be aware of.    So bookmark my site and sign-up for updates,  you won’t want to miss a post!