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How Postal Codes Map to Geographic Areas

By Kaveri Mechanda and Henry Puderer, Geography Division, Statistics Canada


Statistics Canada creates files that provide the link between postal codes and the geographic areas by which it disseminates statistical data. By linking postal codes to the Statistics Canada geographic areas, Statistics Canada facilitates the extraction and subsequent aggregation of data for selected geographic areas from files available to users. Users can then take data from Statistics Canada for their areas and tabulate this with other data for these same areas to create a combined statistical profile for these areas.

An issue has been the methodology used by Statistics Canada to establish the linkage of postal codes to geographic areas. In order to address this issue, Statistics Canada decided to create a conceptual framework on which to base the rules for linking postal codes and Statistics Canada's geographic areas. This working paper presents the conceptual framework and intends to accomplish the following:

  • study the postal code concepts and descriptors used by Canada Post Corporation in terms of their typology and occurrence
  • examine how postal codes are used and construct postal code service areas based on the usage
  • establish business rules governing the geocoding or linkage of postal codes to standard geographic areas and provide indicators of data quality and other metadata

The methodology described in this paper will be the basis for linking postal codes to the 2006 Census geographic areas. This paper is presented for feedback from users of Statistics Canada's postal code related products.

The link between postal codes and Statistics Canada's geographic areas is currently provided in the Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) and the Postal Code Federal Riding File (PCFRF). The expectation is that the geocoding rules and recommendations for quality indicators can be used to create these products. These new rules have been tested on the linkages to 2001 Census geographic areas and have resulted in revision over 40,000 records or about 2% of the records in the PCCF. The testing done to date indicates that about 90% of the postal codes can be geocoded with the new geocoding rules established in this working paper. More research is needed on geocoding the other 10% of the postal codes – the more recent data from the 2006 Census is expected to aid in geocoding some of these postal codes. The PCCF and PCFRF are now planned to have their postal codes geocoded to the 2006 Census geographic areas using the new geocoding rules.

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Date modified: 2007-02-14 Important Notices
Online catalogue Main page Discussion Tables and figures Appendices Glossary More information PDF version