It’s finally happened. We know you can’t believe every (any) thing you read on the internet, we can now say the same of credit-reporting agency Experian, whose tag line is “Data Quality.”
I saw an infographic (a nice name for a chart full of data that’s been made “fun”) purporting to show “The Wealthiest ZIP Codes in America” published by credit bureau Experian. To be pedantic, I will point out that “America” consists of two continents and many countries while this chart only talks about the Unites States.
The chart lists the top three ZIP codes in each state. Each state falls into a region. For example, Texas is part of the West South Central region that also contains Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas. It also lists the number of households in each code. Data reportedly came from the IRS and US Census and was filtered through wealth.mongabay.com, freep.com and zipatlas.com.
I spent a few minutes whirling around the chart seeing if I recognized any zip codes from cities I used to live in…and zippo, I couldn’t place any of these toitiest of hoity ZIP codes. So being the scab-picker that I am, I looked a little deeper … (“ruh-roh” as Scooby would say)
In Texas, the three top ZIP codes are 77010 in Houston and a pair from Dallas (75247 and 75270). Not ringing any bells? They’re not in the Park Cities or Preston Hollow. They’re here…
77010’s 247 households calling the area their primary residence purported to have an average income of $640,198. It’s supposedly the highest income in the four-state West South Central region. Where is this enclave? River Oaks? Tanglewood? Nope. It’s in downtown Houston in an area that borders the George R. Brown Convention Center and Highway 59. As you might imagine, it’s a very commercial area with Ernst & Young, Hess and the Consulate General of Japan calling this ZIP code home. The only residences are the 64 condos (starting <$500K) located on the top four floors of the Four Seasons (built in 1982) and the 346 units at the One Park Place apartment tower (owned and managed by the “Distinguished Finger Companies”).
Impugning the $640,198 income stat used by Experian is the 2010 Census which places the average income per household at $200,000. I find it impossible to believe 2009’s One Park Place tripled the income per household of the ZIP code no matter how luxurious the apartments.
Figure 1: #1 Wealthiest Zip Code in Texas – 77010
Enough about Houston, what about Dallas?
75270’s 27 households claim an average of $382,037 in income making it the third wealthiest ZIP code in the state – but where the heck is it? It’s the ZIP code for the Renaissance Tower at 1201 Elm Street. While in the 1980s it was the location of the fabled Ewing Oil, I can’t seem to find where it’s (equally fabled) 27 residents live. Perhaps there are eccentric homeless people claiming their mail from cardboard sidewalk shelters?
According to the 2000 US Census, the population was zero, average household income was zero and the average home value was zero – because there are no residential units in the ZIP. DCAD lists no current residential properties in Renaissance Tower – someone should tell them Experian thinks there are 27 tax dodgers there.
Figure 2: Texas’ Third Wealthiest ZIP Code
So far, the only commonality between the first and third wealthiest ZIP codes in Texas is that both contain Ernst & Young offices and Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell outlets. That leaves us with Texas’ second wealthiest ZIP code.
75247’s 264 residents clock in with an average household income of $548,640 – the state’s second wealthiest. Is that ZIP code on the tip of your tongue? It should be, it’s the ZIP code containing the Dallas Central Appraisal District’s offices! Aside from that strange coincidence, this ZIP is yet another largely commercial area. It’s located just west of Love Field along Regal Row to the north with the Trinity River on the western border before meandering through the greenbelt to Sylvan.
Figure 3: Texas’ Second Wealthiest Zip Code?
Again, the numbers don’t add up. In the 2000 Census, average household income was $15,208 and the average home was valued at $36,300. About the only thing that Experian and the US Census agree on is that in 2000 there were 251 residents and now there are 264. So while the area contains both Easy Street and Lucky Lane, it’s difficult to believe that this area is home to Texas’ second wealthiest ZIP code.
Let’s leave Texas for a moment. How about other states? New York’s top three all list income per household as being north of $2-million. New York’s wealthiest ZIP code 10104 is a little murky to pin down but appears to be a single building that I’m guessing houses the Baccarat Residences. Their number two, ZIP code 10112, is the zip code for part of Rockefeller Center yet contains 294 households claiming it as their primary residence.
And New York’s number three wealthiest ZIP Code? Its 1,336 households make their homes at the Statue of Liberty, Ellis and Governor’s Islands, Battery Park and selected (and highly commercial) areas of Wall Street whose average income in the US Census was $181,900 – a far cry from the $2,118,766 listed by Experian.
Experian. Data Quality.
FYI: Experian is one of those companies that offshored its corporate HQ in order to avoid paying its fair share of US taxes. While it lists a corporate headquarters in tax haven Dublin, Ireland, every fact listed on its corporate fact sheet – all the people it employs, revenues it generates and consumer and business data collected – comes from NORTH AMERICA.