People have a desire and a right to free association. When choosing a place to live, current federal law prohibits professionals from directly answering your questions about the characteristics of a neighborhood. All the professionals can do is point you to a neutral resource to do your own reading. So you’re on your own, but where should you look?

To help you research what’s important to you, here’s an interesting resource to learn many details about a neighborhood.

In the early 1990’s a company called Claritas created a business customer segmentation tool called PRIZM, and was later bought out by the Nielsen Company. PRIZM is still maintained and developed today.

The purpose of the tool is to help businesses learn more about the customer base in their area, and identify which segments and types of customer are most likely to buy their product. This way, the business can spend their advertising dollars to target the sort of customers most likely to respond.

The benefit to you for relocation planning is that it provides a deep look down to a zipcode level of the biggest demographic groups in an area. This isn’t merely ethnicity (though that is included), but covers household age, family type and makeup, income brackets, asset brackets, social groups, urbanization, owners versus renters, and much, much more. Overall, the segmentation offers up to 68 different categories which can then be filtered and viewed individually to learn more about the segment types.

Using the free version of the PRIZM zipcode lookup, you enter a zipcode of interest and the tool gives a map showing the borders of that zipcode, the top five largest segment groups (without revealing which is larger than another), and various further details about the top 5 segments in that zipcode. To find out all segments in a zipcode and which ones are larger and by how much, a paid account must be created at that site.

An example of the free results from Claritas zipcode lookup.