Anatomy of a ZIP Code

Breaking down the individual parts of a ZIP

Tue 16 August 2022 2 minutes

Back in March, we wrote up about what a "qualitative ZIP" is, and the short of it is that it's the quality over quantity of a ZIP. Today we wanted to briefly dive a bit deeper into what exactly makes a ZIP code a ZIP code - namely, what do the individual digits actually mean?

All ZIP codes start out as five digit strings. Most have additional digits (the +4 if you've ever seen that), but those are not quite as important, all for the same reason: specificity.

The way a ZIP code is structured is by geography: if you actually look at all ZIP codes, those with the same first digit are going to be in the same area of the country. New England states are going to be 0 and 1 and the West Coast is going to include 9. It goes deeper from here with each subsequent digit referring to an area within an area.

So if we're looking at a California ZIP code, such as 90013, it goes:

It may seem minor at first, but in the long run it's helpful to be able to break down a code into its individual parts to understand how it works. We'll make sure to come back to exploring the nature of ZIP codes in future blog posts.

Header image sourced with permission from minamei9.

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