One of the many challenges that social science researchers and practitioners face is the difficulty of relating United States Postal Service (USPS) ZIP codes to Census Bureau geographies. There are valuable data available only at the ZIP code level that, when combined with demographic data tabulated at various Census geography levels, could open up new avenues of exploration.
While some acceptable methods of combining ZIP codes and Census geography exist, they have limitations. To provide additional avenues for merging these data, PD&R has released the HUD-USPS Crosswalk Files. These unique files are derived from data in the quarterly USPS Vacancy Data. They originate directly from the USPS; are updated quarterly, making them highly responsive to changes in ZIP code configurations; and reflect the locations of both business and residential addresses. The latter feature is of particular interest to housing researchers because many of the phenomena that they study are based on housing unit or address. By using an allocation method based on residential addresses rather than by area or by population, analysts can take into account not only the spatial distribution of population, but also the spatial distribution of residences. This enables a slightly more nuanced approach to allocating data between disparate geographies.