Zip code Information Paints a Community Portrait

Special for The Review

Posted In: Politics, Local, News, Local,   From Issue 654   By: The Review Editorial Staff

07th February, 2008     0

About 60 percent of families in prosperous Frankenmuth and Freeland have lived in their homes for at least 5 years. The same is true on Saginaw's East Side.

Shared stability?

In one sense, yes. In another, no. Average family income in Frankenmuth and Freeland is about $55,000, more than double the East Side's $25,000.

These are only two among hundreds of comparative pictures that can be concluded through ZIPskinny, at, a fairly new web site that presents information by zip code.

None if this info is new. In fact, much of it is growing old from the 2000 U.S. Census and so an update will be welcome. All the data is out there and available, but ZIPskinny makes it easy to put the numbers side by side.

An observer may ask, what's the point? We already know the inequities and differences that exist across Saginaw County. But still, it's informative to get some stats. Anyone with the least curiosity about their community would gain from scrounging around at this site for at least a half-hour or an hour.

One thing forgotten about Greater Saginaw, especially during the economic down cycles such as now, is that the boundaries hold virtually everything contained in the United States as a whole (except perhaps for a genuine natural lake).

There are the challenges, such as segregation within the core area, and poverty both within the core and along the rural edges. There are vacant homes and nowadays, of course, soaring foreclosures. But there are also tidy older neighborhoods here and there, upper-scale developments in some places, and busy avenues of commerce. For a community that's supposed to be in decline, it can become awfully tough at times to turn left onto Bay Road.

Bigger Than Neighborhoods

ZIPskinny advertises that users may pursue the 'skinny' on their own neighborhoods, but zip codes by and large cover more area than neighborhoods. An ambitious visitor may wish that the data were by smaller census tracks.

The 48601 zip code, for instance, sprawls so far into rural Buena Vista and toward Bridgeport that it cannot truly reflect the isolation of inner-urban schools with 300 students, none of who is White.

This single zip code oddly covers nearly a quarter of the county's population and never has been postally split into two smaller codes.
Its makeup is listed at 60 percent Black, 26 percent White, 11 percent Hispanic.

We may think of the in-city West Side (48602) as becoming more highly integrated, and near the river that's true, but for the whole zone it is 74 percent White, and 11 percent apiece for Black and Hispanic.

If readers look this stuff up on their own, by the way, we're rounding off the fractions to keep all of these numbers from becoming even more numerical.

ZIPskinny managers, to their credit, offer a cover note to explain that some of the numbers in the new format may be screwed up. This seems most readily apparent in Carrollton's tiny 48724 zip code, which consists generally of the area across the former Sixth Street Bridge near the old sugar beet plant.

This is a fairly quiet area but it looks old and ramshackle, both with its older structures and its acres of vacant land. But according to ZIPskinny, 9 percent of the families make more than $200,000. Certainly the various taxing units are only wishing this were true.

Users may type in only their own zip codes, but ZIPskinny allows as many as 20 at once. To put together our comparison, we selected 15. Some are best identified by their school districts. They are:

48415, Birch Run.
48417, Burt.
48601, East Saginaw, Buena Vista, part of
48602, West Saginaw in-city.
48603, Mostly Saginaw Township.
48604, Through newer Carrollton, into the Bay and Tittabawassee wealth.
48609, Shields (Swan Valley).
48616, Chesaning. 48623, Freeland.
48626, Hemlock.
48722, Bridgeport.
48724, Old Carrollton.
48734, Frankenmuth
48637, Merrill.
48655, St. Charles.

Learn From The Numbers

When it comes to ethnic makeup, we cannot say that any community is totally segregated, but seven of the zip codes register as less than one-half percent Black. The most popular community for Hispanics is Carrollton, at 17 percent.

Figures on stability, measuring counts of families in the same homes for 5 years or more, may prove deceiving. Places such as Frankenmuth and Freeland draw new families. Top-rated at 73 percent is Merrill, which actually is struggling a great deal, especially with school enrollments. Will the district be called upon to merge with another?

ZIPskinny does not attempt to post those notorious student test scores from MEAP, the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, which would be quite a chore.

The census figures instead are based on educational achievement. The East Side shows that 69 percent of adults have at least finished high school.

In other areas the percentages of adults at that level are 79 to 89 percent, fairly uniform in number. Still this means that even in the most prosperous zip codes, about one in a dozen adults lacks a basic diploma.

We always hear about the need for a college diploma in today's 'global information economy.' Frankenmuth leads in the number of adults having achieved at least bachelor's degrees. Guess the count: 50 percent? Try 30 percent.

So it seems there may not be as many young folks finishing college as we may think, no matter what the locale.

The family poverty rate in the 48601 zip code is posted at 30 percent, although school officials report up to 80 percent in some neighborhoods.

It's 15 percent on the West Side and in single digits elsewhere. Most Saginaw County residents are aware that rural poverty is most severe in the southwest section, but because of the way that zip codes are drawn, this factor is portrayed only slightly in the Burt area.
How many household heads consider themselves managers or professionals? It's 42 percent in Frankenmuth and 39 percent in Saginaw Township, but also a respectable 24 percent on the city's West Side and 18 percent on the East Side. Anyone who feels they have a whole lot of bosses who have nothing to do, other than to tell THEM what to do will be interested in this category.

One key area that ZIPskinny does not try to explore is crime rates. Instead, it offers links for more current information, for fairly steep fees. The issue then becomes the manner in which various communities report their crime rates. Leaders of Saginaw City and inner suburbs have long contended that outlying areas report crime with less intensity, in order to maintain their reputations. This is a question that ZIPskinny won't resolve.

ZIPskinny Dating Game?

How about adults never married? This is among the more uniform statistics across the zip codes, with at least 18 percent in each of them. At least 18 percent! Hundreds of great catches out there! Maybe it's time to run one of those Review Mag personal ads.

This in turn leads to a followup question: Where can the fellows and the ladies meet up? Well, it seems that the ladies should head south and west within the county, and the fellows should head north and east.

Communities such as Birch Run, Chesaning, Hemlock, Merrill and St. Charles reflect a near exact 50-50 balance. But in Saginaw and its suburbs, including Saginaw Township, it's closer to 55 percent ladies, 45 percent men.

Even this fact could be somewhat attributed to ethnicity. We have more urban men of minority persuasion first caught, and then convicted to longer sentences. ZIPskinny data, like so much societal information, may seem inherently colored by color, sad as that may be.

Form your own judgments.


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