Free Purchasing Power Profiles and Workforce Density Data for All Census Tracts and Residential ZIP Codes in U.S.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute provides comparison data on purchasing power, business activity, and workforce density for all census tracts, residential ZIP codes, and the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. The profiles are designed to help cities, companies, developers, small business owners, and community organizations assess the advantages of urban density for underserved city neighborhoods.

Note: The reports are based on 2000 U.S. Census and 2002 and 2003 Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CES) and have not been updated for more recent Census, ACS or CES data.

  1. Purchasing Power by Census Tracts for custom made printouts of purchasing power for 16 retail categories and data on the workforce population for any U.S. census tract.

  2. Purchasing Power by ZIP Code for data on retail expenditures for 16 consumer areas, retail and business establishments, and the available workforce for all residential zipcodes in the U.S.

  3. Purchasing Power Rankings for Top 100 Metro Areas for ZIP code rankings of each of the 16 retail expenditure categories for the 100 largest metro areas.

  4. Free Geographic Databases for shapefiles and business, household, and workforce census databases to help map your area.

  5. Maps of Purchasing Power for Food-at-Home and Apparel to download free maps of purchasing power for the top 100 metro areas in the U.S.

  6. Urban Markets Retail Sales Leakage/Surplus Drill Downs to show the difference between each metro neighborhood's purchasing power and estimated retail sales.

  7. Methodology for a description of the methodology used for the purchasing power profiles and the retail sales leakage/surplus estimates.

photo of drill ETI Drill Down Tool Kit HomePage


To Find Census Tracts in Your Community

You can locate the census tract for a specific address at the U.S. Census Bureau Factfinder Advanced Geography Search page using the GEOGRAPHY "address search" or "map" option.

For maps of census tracts in any community, go to the www.census.gov/geo/www/maps/descriptwindows/outline.htm. Click on "Census Tract Outline Maps 2000." Select your state, then county. Then select the PDF file for your county or select the first PDF file to locate the tracts for your part of the county.


caution symbol Caution! Marketing Stereotypes May Be Harmful to Your Neighborhood's Health



Based on our experience in Milwaukee, we urge cities and neighborhoods to use caution when securing databases from many of the major marketing firms.

  1. Nearly all of the emphasis of the marketing firm data is placed on average household income, while the density of urban neighborhoods is ignored. Rather than comparing purchasing power per square mile, marketing companies usually rank neighborhoods primarily based on household income, race and desirable "family types." A marketing industry has evolved of segmentation models and stereotypes (under such trademark names as PRIZM, MOSAIC, ACORN, MicroVision, Tapestry, P$CYLE, LifeP$YCLE) by firms such as Claritas, CACI, ESRI, and Experian.

    Typically, sparsely populated suburban areas with high average household income are ranked as "winners" while densely populated urban areas with concentrations of lower-income households are ranked as "losers." These rankings are often used to steer businesses away from densely populated city neighborhoods and into "urban sprawl" communities, where malls and retail outlets compete for customers driving to their location from longer and longer distances.

  2. National marketing firms frequently use racial and class-based stereotypes to describe urban neighborhoods. For example, CACI reported that African Americans in Milwaukee (and in many other cities) "splurge on fast food and spend leisure time going to bars and dancing" and that residents of a local neighborhood with a significant Hispanic population "don't know the amount of money needed to retire comfortably." Claritas described residents of a Milwaukee African American neighborhood as "very low income families [who] buy video games, dine at fast food chicken restaurants [and] use non-prescription cough syrup" while describing weathy white suburbanites as "interested in civic activities, volunteer work, contributions and travel." A review of zipcode profiles for other cities uncovered identical descriptions used to characterize hundreds of urban neighborhoods around the country. In some cases these market segmentation models, sorted in large part by race, have helped steer businesses away from African American and Latino customers and central city neighborhoods. See

    In 2001, after Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist criticized Claritas and CACI for using misleading information that discouraged business expansion in innercity neighborhoods, the president and CEO of Claritas reported to the press that his marketing company would remove references to gambling or use of tobacco and alcohol in characterizing neighborhoods. The new stereotypes subsequently posted on the Internet, however, described central city Milwaukee African Americans as "inner city strugglers" who "watch a lot of television and listen to a lot of radio."

  3. In many cases, the "geodemographic segmentation" overlay of stereotypes generated by computer do not relate to the community described. In one marketing firm's apparent attempt to provide a more "positive" image of a lower-income Milwaukee neighborhood, elderly low-income African American residents were described by Claritas as stamp collectors and shoppers at "Banana Republic." The website for ESRI, a firm offering a community segmentation model as part of its package of data for businesses and educational institutions, described the two predominant household types of San Quentin (ZIP Code 94964) as "Cozy and Comfortable" (i.e., "older, settled married couples") and "Laptops and Lattes" ("the most eligible and unencumbered marketplace") without reporting 96 percent of the population in the zipcode as incarcerated.

  4. Ignoring urban density in their standard products, marketing firms now team up with non-profit organizations to sell special "inner city" databases and analyses to promote urban communities. At the same time, these firms' websites and client reports continue to denigrate central city neighborhoods. A popular new approach (i.e., marketing niche) is to argue that central city neighborhoods are profitable retail markets only when special studies are utilized tapping into their "underground economy," unreported income sources, welfare and food stamp payments, and "barter" economies. City governments are asked to pay for specially tailored "inner city" reports while the same marketing firms distribute anti-urban, racially-driven segmentation market profiles and reports stressing average household income (rather than per square mile expenditures) to their national customers.


Data and Mapping Files Online

Data provided by the Employment and Training Institute can be used to assist in planning workforce development investment programs, developing business plans, furthering central city economic development, addressing retail needs in underserved markets, and supporting balanced and sustainable communities. The Institute is collaborating with educational institutions to make data bases available to students in business, economics, education, marketing, sociology, urban planning, and urban studies, free of the inaccurate and questionable stereotypes that accompany the geodemographic segmentation data bases commonly purchased by university libraries.

  1. Utilize purchasing profile data to prepare business plans and marketing plans for start-up companies to meet untapped consumer demand in central city neighborhoods.

  2. Identify your neighborhood's workforce density for higher demand industrial sectors.

  3. Compare neighborhoods' purchasing power for retail expenditures, based on the ETI state-of-the art analysis of the Consumer Expenditure Survey by household and family type. Data is provided for 16 categories of expenditures, including for food at home, food away from home, clothing, television equipment, audio equipment, large and small appliances, computer hardware and software, personal products, home repair products, housekeeping supplies, non-prescription drugs, and various household furnishings.

  4. Map urban ZIP codes or combinations of census tracts to show the relative purchasing power per square mile.

  5. Identify underserved central city neighborhood markets and gaps in retail services for grocery stores, pharmacies, clothing stores, shoe stores, fast food restaurants, electronics stores, and stores selling automotive parts.

  6. Identify the type of industries your residents work for, including manufacturing firms, retail trade companies, educational services, health care and social services establishments, accommodations and food service establishments, and public administration.

  7. Identify the number of workers (resident and non-resident) employed by companies located in your ZIP code. To help assess spatial mismatches between the local workforce and jobs available in nearby companies, tables for each ZIP code show the employment levels of companies located in the ZIP code, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information services, finance and insurance, real estate, professional services, administrative support, educational service, health care, arts and entertainment, accommodations and food service establishments.

  8. Describe the density of your neighborhood's workforce by major occupational groupings, including management and professional occupations, service occupations, sales and office occupations, and production, transportation, and material moving occupations.

  9. Identify the number of resident workers using public transportation versus those traveling to work by private vehicles.

  10. Describe the utilization and underutilization of your neighborhood's workforce, according to 2000 U.S. Census data on residents working full-time year-round, part-time year-round, and part-time part-year.

Background on the Employment and Training Institute Drilldowns, Workforce Density and Purchasing Power Research

ETI Drill Down Tool Kit

Free customized drilldown reports are available for each U.S. census tract (or combination of tracts) showing the characteristics of jobs located in each neighborhood by type of employer, industry, earnings, occupations, means of transportation to work, and the race/ethnicity and age of workers. Complementary tables are available on the type of jobs and characteristics of local residents working inside or outside of their neighborhood.

Purchasing Power Profiles (PPPs)

Building upon a successful project with the City of Milwaukee and the Helen Bader Foundation, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute now provides free data on purchasing power by neighborhood for the entire United States. These databases identify spending for major retail expenditure categories, recognizing the density advantages of many lower-income central city neighborhoods that are typically ignored by national marketing firm data. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is making its zipcode level database available at no cost for educational, government and commercial users throughout the United States, to help central city communities maximize the strengths of their neighborhoods and to provide accurate data without the anti-urban and race-based stereotypes imbedded in marketing firm models.

For more information, contact John Pawasarat, Director of the Univerity of Wisconsin- Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute at pawasara@uwm.edu.

Workforce Density

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute collaborated with the City of Milwaukee to map the density of the available workforce and labor market assets of central city neighborhoods. The data, now made available to all other large cities, are used to show companies the advantages of worksites designated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as eligible for Renewal Community employment credits. The data and maps also show advantages of reclaiming "brownfield" sites adjacent to or accessible by public transportation to neighborhoods with high concentrations of workers and show relative disadvantages of siting new retail and manufacturing industries in sparsely populated suburban and exurban "urban sprawl" areas away from public transportation networks.

Mapping Housing Integration by Block and Block Group

The Employment and Training Institute study on Racial Integration in Urban America: A Block Level Analysis of African American and White Housing Patterns examined the historic racial segregation indexes, which emphasize even-dispersal and one-way movement of minority populations away from city centers. An alternative definition of black- white integration is presented, mapping neighborhoods that have a sizeable portion (20 percent) of both black and white populations. This approach considers neighborhoods that are majority African American (or Latino, Native American, or Asian American) as racially integrated if at least 20 percent of the population is another race.

Neighborhood Indicators

Since 1998 the Employment and Training Institute has prepared annual analyses of the Employment and Economic Well-Being of Families in 9 central city Milwaukee areas using Wisconsin state income tax files to track reported earnings and earned income tax credit (EIC) claims for single and married filers with dependents and to estimate the numbers of employed families living in poverty. The indicators also track families receiving food stamps, medical assistance, and welfare payments; changes in home ownership rates and housing values; changes in reported crimes by type; and teenagers' and adults' access to driver's licenses.



For more information, contact John Pawasarat, Employment and Training Institute, School of Continuing Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 161 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 6000, Milwaukee, WI 53203. Phone 414-227-3380. Email: eti@uwm.edu.

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Page updated 2011
Employment and Training Institute
School of Continuing Education
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Direct comments to: eti@uwm.edu