By Jami Miedema

Demographic information is helpful to find out population characteristics for economic and marketing research. But what if you want to look beyond the distribution of certain traits of a community and understand their culture? Would it be useful to know about a community’s opinions, interests, and lifestyle? That’s what psychographics aims to discover “the personality” of an area.

PRIZM, a psychographics tool from Nielsen Claritas, defines the behaviors of U.S. households to ultimately group them into 66 unique segments. Although products that offer psychographic analysis can be expensive, Claritas offers a free scaled-down version of PRIZM, called You Are Where You Live. It uses the same premise of PRIZM that “birds of a feather flock together,” and by entering a zip-code of your choice, you can learn about the behaviors and preferences of a certain area.

I profiled the town I live in, and here are most common segments found in my neighborhood:

Boomtown Singles
Affordable housing, abundant entry-level jobs, and a thriving singles scene–all have given rise to the Boomtown Singles segment in fast-growing satellite cities. Younger, single, and working-class, these residents pursue active lifestyles amid sprawling apartment complexes, bars, convenience stores, and laundromats.

Family Thrifts
The small-city cousins of inner-city districts, Family Thrifts contain young, ethnically diverse parents who have lots of children and work entry-level service jobs. In these apartment-filled neighborhoods, visitors find the streets jam-packed with babies and toddlers, tricycles and basketball hoops, Suzukis and Kias.

Mobility Blues
Mobility Blues is a segment of middle-age singles in working-class neighborhoods in America’s satellite cities. Ethnically diverse, these transient Americans tend to have modest lifestyles due to their lower-income jobs. Surveys show they excel in going to movies, playing basketball, and shooting pool.

New Homesteaders
Young, upper-middle-class families seeking to escape suburban sprawl find refuge in New Homesteaders, a collection of small rustic townships filled with new ranches and Cape Cods. With decent-paying jobs in blue-collar industries, these dual-income couples have fashioned comfortable, child-centered lifestyles; their driveways are filled with campers and powerboats, their family rooms with PlayStations and Game Boys.

Sunset City Blues
Scattered throughout the older neighborhoods of small cities, Sunset City Blues is a segment of lower-middle-class singles and couples who have retired or are getting close to it. These empty-nesters tend to own their homes but have modest educations and incomes. They maintain a low-key lifestyle filled with newspapers and television by day and family-style restaurants at night.

While I can’t say I fit into any of these segments, I certainly see their prevalence in the town that I live. But as I mentioned above, You Are Where You Live is an abbreviated variation of all PRIZM has to offer. Full PRIZM profiles may contain up to 20 clusters and more in-depth information regarding lifestyle traits, social groups, and demographics. These profiles help companies decide where to market their goods and services by revealing where to reach consumers and how to reach them.

To profile your neighborhood, go to: (case sensitive), and click on the “ZIP Code Look-Up” tab. Enter your zip code and the security code to discover your town’s most common clusters. To view all 66 segments, click on the “Segment Look-Up” tab.