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You Are Where You Live

Claritas PRIZM NE System Sorts ZIP Codes into 66 Clusters

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Updated January 17, 2006
It's impressive what demographers have developed when you examine the PRIZM system developed by San Diego-based Claritas Corporation. The popular PRIZM NE (Potential Rating Index for Zip Markets - New Evolution) system provides marketing folks a standardized set of characteristics, known as clusters, for each ZIP Code in the United States.

In PRIZM NE, each ZIP Code is assigned one or several of sixty-six clusters, based on the shared socioeconomic characteristics of the area. The clusters each have snappy names and short one-line descriptions encompassing the key demographic for the cluster. These clusters "range" from #1 Upper Crust, the elite multi-millionaires at the top of the nation's economic hierarchy, to #66 Low-Rise Living, the poorest of the poor. A listing and description of the 66 clusters can be found online.

Claritas makes some PRIZM information available online, to entice marketers to license the data. By visiting the You Are Where You Live site, you can enter in a ZIP Code and discover the top five clusters for that area. For example, by typing in the ZIP Code 90210 for Beverly Hills, California, we discover that the clusters Blue Blood Estates, Bohemian Mix, Money and Brains, Movers and Shakers, and the aforementioned Upper Crust are the most common for that ZIP Code.

Clicking on any of the cluster names reveals fascinating facts about each cluster. For example, we find that the Money and Brains cluster is described as those with "High incomes, advanced degrees and sophisticated tastes to match their credentials." They tend to shop at Nordstrom, support the arts, read Business Week, listen to all-news radio, and drive a Jaguar. With this type of information, marketers can target their product to those who are most likely to buy.

Claritas information comes from census data and data from millions of purchase records and customer surveys (you know, the kind that come with new products). Integrated, the information from their various data sources creates a fascinating look at the communities that comprise our country.

Searching for Fargo, North Dakota's ZIP Code 58103 reveals a different set of clusters - City Startups, Middleburg Managers, Mobility Blues, New Beginnings, and Up-and-Comers.

Some of the most fascinating clusters to read about include: American Dreams (established urban immigrant families), Gray Power (affluent retirees in sunbelt cities), God's Country (executive exurban families), New Empty Nests (upscale suburban fringe couples), Young Digerati (tech-savvy young singles and couples), and Shotguns and Pickups (rural blue-collar workers and families).

What do you think? Visit the You Are Where You Live site and look up your ZIP Code.

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