What do we mean by a neighborhood?
NeighborhoodScout® uses the official government designation for neighborhoods - the census tract.
Census tracts are small, relatively permanent subdivisions of a county that are defined by the U.S. Census Bureau in conjunction with local authorities all across the country to define real neighborhoods that are bounded to contain areas with homogeneous population characteristics (including economic status, lifestyle, and living conditions). Census tracts usually have 4,000 persons, but can range between 1,500 and 8,000 persons. This is the most fine-grained area for which detailed information is made available from the government, to protect the individual privacy of each of us. Because census tracts are based on population, they vary in size depending on the density of settlement. In urban areas, they are small, and in rural areas they can cover an entire small town or even a few small towns in very rural areas.
Since census tracts are subdivisions of a county, we did a spatial overlay of the census tracts onto city and town boundaries using a geographic information system to properly assign each census tract to its appropriate city or town. Then we named each census tract to the local colloquially recognized neighborhood name for that spot (e.g., Boston, MA (Dorchester). If there was not a name available, we named the census tract by the largest street intersection in the census tract (e.g., Worcester, MA (Lincoln St/Plantation St).
Why we don't use Zip Codes as neighborhoods
Zip codes were developed by the Postal Service for the purpose of delivering mail, but were never intended to define coherent neighborhoods. In addition, Zip Codes can have as many as 10 distinctly different census tracts contained within them. When distinct census tracts are blended together in a single Zip Code, the data reflects their average conditions and often gives a false sense of the area. The result is that potentially great matching neighborhoods can be missed, and erroneous matches can also be produced and delivered to you.
Using census tracts makes great matches possible, and helps people find the areas that are best for them and their families. Because we are committed to providing the highest possible quality and finding the neighborhoods that best meet your criteria, we use census tracts. And, as always, we show you the actual street map of the neighborhood so you know exactly where your best matching neighborhood is located.