What is a Super Zip and Why Should HR Care?

US Super Zips

What is a super zip?

 

“Super Zips” — a term coined by American Enterprise Institute scholar and author Charles Murray to describe the country’s most prosperous, highly educated demographic clusters. On average, they have a median household income of $120,000, and 7 in 10 adults have college degrees.” Washington Post*

 

View the original Washington Post article to see an interactive zip code map of the United States.   

 

This isn’t just a Washington DC/New York City/Los Angeles issue, take a look at the map in the article and you will see super zip clusters all around the US (anything above 95 is considered a super zip).

 

Considering that the median household income in the U.S is about $53,000, those living in the super zips are living a more affluent and a different lifestyle than many other Americans.

 

The growth of super zips is one example of a new kind of economic segregation in our society. This segregation will have an enormous impact on the operating environment of the companies we support:

 

1. Recruiting/Retaining Key Employees: Depending on your business, you may struggle to find people with the skill set your company requires. Notice the cluster of super zips in Silicon Valley? If your company works in cutting edge technology and is located outside Silicon Valley how will you convince people to move to your location? Sure, you can tout the lower cost of property but how do you convince someone to move away from a community of people with similar interests?

2. Work/Flex Benefit Options: Can the employees you hire afford to work close to your location? If your offices are located in a super zip with a median income of $120K you need to pay higher salaries or offer flexible arrangements in consideration of a long commute or a combination of higher salaries and great benefits.

3. Diversity efforts: As people with like-minded backgrounds consolidate into ever-more exclusive geographical locations how do those people relate to the other 95% of people in the U.S.? In areas of the country where median income exceeds $120,000 a year and everyone around you has at least a Bachelor’s degree, how does a marketing professional relate to the other 95% of the country? How difficult does it become to find people that can bring fresh ideas to the company?

 

I’m just starting to explore this area and its implications for HR but this issue is not going away. Super zip’s are one example of growing inequality in this country. How communities, people and companies that operate in those communities handle these issues will have far reaching implications for generations.  

 

If you are interested in reading more on this issue:

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart – Bill Bishop

The New American Divide – Wall Street Journal

Two Silicon Valleys: One of Haves, One of Have-Nots – NY Times

Class in America: Mobility Measured – Business Insider/The Economist

Rich People in the South Want New Town to Keep Poor People Out: Taxes – Bloomberg