21056 says it all -- that's where rich get their mail Gibson Island is tops in area ZIP codes

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It may not gleam with the luster of Beverly Hills 90210, but take a spin in the Baltimore metropolitan area's glossiest address: Gibson Island 21056.

The private island at the mouth of the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County tops Baltimore area ZIP codes in household income, graduate degrees, big-ticket mortgages and spacious homes, according to a Maryland Office of Planning analysis.

What's in a five-digit number? Plenty, if it's a ZIP code. A look at 1990 census results by ZIP code shows that in the Baltimore area:

* Towson 21204 had the highest percentage of senior citizens, with nearly a quarter of its 37,234 residents age 65 or older. Outside of military housing, the young Howard County communities of Columbia 21046 and Laurel 20723 had the least seniors, at only 3.2 percent.

* While Gibson Island 21056 and Roland Park 21210 had the highest educational levels -- nearly 40 percent of residents had graduate or professional degrees -- almost a quarter of adults in Southwest Baltimore 21223 and Highlandtown 21224 left school before ninth grade.

* The Baltimore area's high-rent district -- literally -- is Glenwood 21738 in western Howard County, where the median monthly rent was $1,001 in 1990. Other high-rent areas were suburbs such as Dayton 21036 in western Howard ($943) and Severna Park 21146 in Anne Arundel ($860).

* Some rather prosperous minority families live in overwhelmingly white suburbs. Average black household income was $153,742 in southern Howard County's Highland 20777, and Asian households averaged $114,021 in Lutherville-Timonium 21093. A small Hispanic minority averaged $100,918 in ZIP 21229, West Baltimore's majority-black Edmondson Avenue corridor.

John McKibben and Gina Rankins weren't surprised to find that their little corner of southern Anne Arundel County, Tracy's Landing 20779, is the Baltimore area's commuter hell. Average travel time to work from there is 45.6 minutes.

Mr. McKibben, a United Airlines pilot, and Ms. Rankins, a United flight attendant, drive even longer to Dulles Airport, one hour and 15 minutes "on a good day," she said. But they only make the trip about five times a month, and sometimes Mr. McKibben cuts the commute to 20 minutes by flying his Cessna 180 from his backyard grass airstrip.

Remoteness has its advantages in Tracy's Landing 20779.

"We've got blue heron, lots of osprey and even a bald eagle in the woods," Mr. McKibben said.

Patty Mackall, who also lives in 20779, was surprised to learn that black households in Tracy's Landing average $69,000 in annual income. Mrs. Mackall, who is black, is a beauty salon manager, and her husband, Ray, is a Prince George's County police officer.

Since the 1960s, many blacks have moved away from southern Anne Arundel to Annapolis and Prince George's as the traditional tobacco farms were replaced by upscale subdivisions and marinas. Mrs. Mackall theorizes that the more prosperous black families remain.

"Our house was in my family for years before we bought it," she said. "If you didn't have your own property, it was [expensive] for young families to move in."

Island of prosperity

Baltimore area ZIP codes vary widely in size, from the 327 people of Gibson Island 21056 to the more than 75,000 of Glen Burnie 21061. The smallest ZIP codes, such as Stevenson 21153 or Harmans 21077, are a group of post office boxes and are not included in census figures.

Larger ZIP codes may include pockets as prosperous as Gibson Island, but the small, homogeneous 21056 ZIP packs a statistical wallop because it is literally an island of prosperity. Fully one-third of Gibson Island households have incomes exceeding $150,000.

The 1,100-acre island couldn't be much more exclusive. A private security force patrols the property around the clock and staffs the gatehouse. The island collects its own trash and fights its own fires.

Most residents belong to the Gibson Island Club with its tennis courts, golf course and yachting squadron.

"I'm told by people around the world that it's pretty unique," said Charles W. Shaeffer Jr., a securities executive who is president of the Gibson Island Corp., in which property owners are shareholders.

But Mr. Shaeffer wants people to know there's hard work behind Gibson Island's luxurious lifestyle. (The island's average one-way commuting time is 38 minutes.)

"I leave for work at 6 in the morning, and I'm amazed at how many of my neighbors do the same," he said. "They may have high incomes, but they're not just collecting [bond] coupons."

Unexpected bonanza

The five digits 21056 alone may not communicate Gibson Island's exclusivity to most Baltimore area residents. But the ZIP means a lot to direct-mail and other marketers.

ZIP codes were instituted nationally in 1961 to improve mail delivery. (The acronym stands for Zone Improvement Plan.) ZIPs proved an unexpected bonanza for businesses with products to sell by helping pinpoint the market of likely buyers.

"This is a classic instance of the law of unintended consequences," said Peirce Lewis, a Pennsylvania State University geography professor. "It starts out as an innocent device for mail delivery and ends up as a device for classifying the entire population."

In the 1970s, private companies began taking census ZIP-code data and refining it. The field is known as "geodemographics" or "lifestyle segmentation."

Claritas Inc., an Alexandria, Va., geodemographics pioneer, assigns ZIP codes (or parts of ZIP codes) to 40 different demographic clusters with catchy names.

Gibson Island 21056, for example, falls mainly into Cluster 28, Blue Blood Estates. Claritas describes the cluster as "America's wealthiest neighborhoods, populated by super-upper established managers, professionals and heirs to 'old money,' accustomed to privilege and living in luxurious surroundings."

Money & Brains

The residents of Blue Blood Estates are more likely to belong to a country club, have a gold credit card and watch tennis on television, Claritas says. They are less likely to go camping, have a J. C. Penney credit card and watch TV quiz shows.

Roland Park 21210 falls more into the Money & Brains cluster, the nation's second-highest socioeconomic rank. Such folks are more likely to buy a foreign car and listen to classical radio than to go power-boating and watch TV bowling.

At the other end of the socioeconomic scale, Southwest Baltimore 21223 belongs to the Public Assistance and Heavy Industry clusters. Residents are more likely to go to gambling casinos and buy money orders than to own tax-sheltered annuities.

Marketing values aside, some ZIP codes seem to fit their residents particularly well. Take Bradshaw 21021 in northeastern Baltimore County. It ranks as the Baltimore area's most stable area, based on the percentage of people who lived in the same house in 1990 as in 1985.

Claritas assigns Bradshaw 21021 to Blue-Chip Blues, Young Suburbia and Levittown, U.S.A., all middle-of-the-road clusters where residents give cookouts, buy savings bonds and watch HBO.

Nothing fancy, which is just how Gordon Taylor, a construction superintendent, likes it in Bradshaw.

"I haven't seen too many people move, except three in almost 27 years," Mr. Taylor said of his neighborhood. "It's a nice, decent place to live. Everybody knows everybody. If I go out, my neighbor looks out for me, and, if he goes out, I look out for him."

A zip code profile of metropolitan Baltimore

The maps below show how zip codes in the Baltimore metropolitan area rank in several 1990 census categories.

About 20 small zip codes in which residents pick up mail at local post offices are not included in the rankings, such as Brooklandville (21022), Lisbon (21765), Harmans (21077), Perryman (21130) and Stevenson (21153).

Fat wallets--(Percentage of households with annual income of $150,000 or more)*

.. .. .. .... ..ZIP CODE .. .. .. .. .. .. ...PERCENT

1. .. .. ...21056 (Gibson Island) .. .. .. ..33.1%

2. .. .. ...21131 (Phoenix-Jacksonville) .. .17.1%

3. .. ... ..21029 (Clarksville) .. .. .. .. .13.2%

4. .. ... ..20777 (Highland) .. .. .. .. ....12.4%

5. .. .. ...21057 (Glenarm) .. .. .. .. .. ..12.2%

6. .... . ..21210 (Roland Park) .. .. .... ..11.8%

7. .. ... ..21071 (Glyndon) .. .. .. . .. ...11.3%

8. ... .. ..21035 (Davidsonville) .. .. .. ..11.0%

9. ... .. ..21208 (Pikesville) .. .. .. .. . .9.7%

10. .. ... .21725 (Detour) .. .. .. .. .. .. .8.3%

* Zip codes with at least 100 households

Stable neighborhoods--(Percentage of people age 5 or older living in same house as 1985)*

.. .. .. .. .. .ZIP CODE .. .. .. .. .. .. .PERCENT

1. .. .. ...21021 (Bradshaw) .. .. .. .. .. ..80.8%

2. .. .. ...21162 (White Marsh) .. .. .. .. ..78.0%

3. .. .. ...21723 (Cooksville) .. .. .. .. ...77.5%

4. .. .. ...20759 (Fulton) .. .. .. .. .. .. .73.9%

5. .. .. ...21071 (Glyndon) .. .. .. .. .. ...73.4%

6. .. .. .. 21013 (Baldwin) .. .. .. .. .. ...72.4%

7. .. .. ...21725 (Detour) .. .. .. .. .. ....71.7%

8. .. .. ...21155 (Upperco) .. .. .. .. .. ...71.6%

9. .. .. ...21160 (Whiteford) .. .. .. .. .. .70.8%

10. .. .. ..21057 (Glenarm) .. .. .. .. .. ...70.7%

* Zip codes with at least 100 households

Working women--(Percentage of females 16 years and over in the workforce)*

.. .. .. .. .. .ZIP CODE .. .. .. .. .. .. .PERCENT

Top Five

1. .. .. ...20723 (Laurel) .. .. .. .. .. .. .82.5%

2. .. .. ...21046 (Columbia) .. .. .. .. .. ..78.3%

3. .. .. ...21045 (Columbia) .. .. .. .. .. ..77.6%

4. .. .. ...21017 (Belcamp) .. .. .. .. .. ...77.0%

5. .. .. ...20707 (Laurel) .. .. .. .. .. .. .76.6%

Bottom Five

1. .. .. ...21201 (Downtown) .. .. .. .. .. ..40.3%

2. .. .. ...21056 (Gibson Island) .. .. .. ...42.9%

3. .. .. ...21223 (Southwest Baltimore) .. .. 44.7%

4. .. .. ...21202 (Downtown) .. .. .. .. .. ..45.4%

5. .. .. ...21057 (Glenarm) .. .. .. .. .. ...45.9%

* Zip codes with at least 100 households, excluding military installations

Killer commutes--(Average travel time to work)*

.. .. .ZIP CODE .. .. ..LOCATION.. .. .. ... MINUTES

1. .. ..20779 .. .. .(Tracy's Landing) .. .. ...45.6

2. .. ..20733 .. .. .(Churchton) .. .. .. .. ...40.9

3. .. ..20714 .. .. .(North Beach) .. .. .. .. .39.8

4. .. ..20764 .. .. .(Shady Side) .. .. .. .. ..38.7

5. .. ..21056 .. .. .(Gibson Island) .. .. .. ..38.0

6. .. ..20778 .. .. .(West River) .. .. .. .. ..37.1

7. .. ..21161 .. .. .(White Hall) .. .. .. .. ..35.6

8. .. ..21107 .. .. .(Millers) .. .. .. .. .. ..35.4

9. .. ..21771 .. .. .(Mount Airy) .. .. .. .. ..35.4

10. .. .20751 .. .. .(Deale) .. .. .. .. .. .. .35.3

* Zip codes with at least 100 households

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