Understanding FIPS codes

Understanding FIPS Codes: A Key to Geographic Identification

What are FIPS Codes? 

FIPS codes are a set of standardized codes developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the United States Department of Commerce. FIPS stands for Federal Information Processing Standards. These codes were introduced to facilitate uniform identification and classification of geographic entities such as counties and states. FIPS codes are primarily numerical, allowing for concise representation and easy integration into databases and information systems. 

Types of FIPS Codes

There are two main types of FIPS codes – FIPS State Codes and FIPS County Codes

  • FIPS State Codes: These are two-digit numerical codes assigned to each state and the District of Columbia in the United States. For instance, Alabama is represented by the FIPS State Code 01, while California is assigned the code 06. 
  • FIPS County Codes: These are three-digit numerical codes assigned to each county within a state. FIPS County Codes are unique within a state, ensuring precise identification. For example, Los Angeles County in California is designated with the FIPS County Code 037. 

Significance and Use of FIPS Codes

Government Administration: FIPS codes play a pivotal role in various government functions, such as census data collection, election administration, and federal funding distribution. When conducting a census or analyzing demographic trends, FIPS codes help organize and categorize data efficiently. 

Emergency Services: In emergency management, FIPS codes are used to identify specific regions affected by natural disasters or emergencies. This aids in coordinating response efforts, allocating resources, and providing accurate information to the public. 

Healthcare Systems: FIPS codes are integrated into healthcare information systems to facilitate regional health analysis, manage health resources, and study the prevalence of diseases across different geographic areas. 

Business and Research: Various businesses and research institutions utilize FIPS codes to categorize and analyze data related to market research, economic trends, and regional development. This aids in decision-making processes and strategic planning. 

Postal Services: FIPS codes are often utilized by postal services for efficient mail sorting and delivery. They contribute to the automation of address processing systems, minimizing errors and improving delivery accuracy. Conclusion: FIPS codes serve as an essential tool for standardizing geographic identification across various sectors. From government administration to emergency services, healthcare, business, and beyond, these codes streamline data management and analysis processes. As technology continues to advance, the utilization of FIPS codes is likely to evolve, further enhancing their role in geographic information systems and data-driven decision-making.

FIPS Codes on the US Zip Code API

The US Zip Code API by Metadapi enhances the zip code data with additional information that allows for a rich dictionary of elements to use in all kinds of solution developments. For each zip code we provide the "State" and "County" FIPS codes associated to it.   As an example, for the Beverly Hills zip code 90210 the following state and county information is presented:
A simplified response to GET https://global.metadapi.com/zipc/v1/zipcodes/90210 :
"stateCode": "CA",
"stateName": "California",
"stateFipsCode": "06",
"stateAbbr": "Calif.",
"countyFipsCode": "037",
"uspsCountyName": "LOS ANGELES",
"titleCaseCountyName": "Los Angeles"
We do not treat the FIPS codes as purely numerical, the same way we don't treat zip codes as numbers, because these codes have leading zero's.

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