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Use the Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF)

What is PCCF and PCCF+?

  • The Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) provides a link between the six-character postal codes and census geographic areas such as dissemination areas, census tracts and others. The PCCF does not validate postal codes. It also provides latitude and longitude coordinates to support mapping applications. It is available for the 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 census geographies.

  • There are situations where a postal code can span over multiple census geographies areas.  The PCCF file contains a Single Link Indicator (SLI) field to indicate the best representative census geography for the given postal code. When the SLI has a value of ‘1’ it is flagged the best link for a given postal code. The value of ‘0’ indicates an additional record.

  • The PCCF+, is another method to find the optimal census geography for a given postal code. It is a SAS control program and set of associated datasets that uses a population weighted random allocation.

Why and when to use PCCF or PCCF+?

  • There are many situations where using the PCCF/PCCF+ is handy.
  • If you have a dataset that includes addresses and would like to link it to demographic, socioeconomic or neighbourhood characteristics then the PCCF/PCCF+ is a great resource.
  • It allows you to use postal codes to link to Statistics Canada datasets recording this information.

Where are the PCCF and PCCF+ files?

  • Due to licensing restrictions, online access to the PCCF is not available.
  • To obtain a copy of the PCCF data, contact the Data Resource Centre.

What are Postal Codes?

  • Postal codes are an important part of a Canadian address. They are used and maintained by the Canada Post Corporation to sort and deliver mail to Canadians.
  • A postal code contains six alphanumeric characters in the form “A1A 1A1” where “A” is a alphabetic character and “1” is a numeric character. 
  • The first three alphanumeric characters of a postal code contain the Forward Sortation Area (FSA) and the next three alphanumeric characters contain the Local Delivery Unit (LDU). The FSA is used to identify a urban or rural geographical area. The first character of the FSA represents either a province, territory or region. The second character identify urban or rural regions. A rural region is denoted by a ‘0’ and urban regions are represented with numbers 1 through 9. The third character is used to precisely identify the geographical area of the address. The LDU describes a specific address or group of addresses within a FSA. A LDU can cover an entire city block, all (or part) of a high-rise or a small rural community.

How do I use PCCF?

Based on instructions provided by Susan Mowers, UOttawa

  1. Postal Code File: Your data file containing postal codes will need to be cleaned. The alphabetic characters in the postal code must be in uppercase and a space will need to be between the first third and fourth characters.
  2. Merging Postal Code File with PCCF: When merging the Postal Code file with PCCF you will merge based on the Postal Code. It is the key. You will need to consider if you need the whole of Canada or just parts of Canada, which census geographies are needed, how to handle the SLIs and active postal codes.
  3. Merging the PCCF to NHS/Census data: Once the merge is complete in step 2, you will be able to merge your data to Censuses, National Household Survey (NHS) or other Statistics Canada datasets using census geographies.

Resources to help with managing your project

Guide: Making a task listGuide: Manage Your SourcesGuide: Creating a concept map

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