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TitleUsing Data Buffet: FIPS codes for geographies
AuthorPhillip Thorne

Can I identify geographic areas using the official "FIPS code" instead of Data Buffet's own geo codes?


What is a FIPS code?

Informally, Data Buffet uses "FIPS code" to mean "alphanumeric identifier for an area, as declared by the appropriate authority".

The term FIPS originally meant "Federal Information Processing Standard," a series of official U.S. publications devoted to data interchange. Several of these publications established numeric identification codes for geographic areas within the United States, although authority has since passed elsewhere and the publications have been "withdrawn." The term "FIPS code" came to informally describe these identifiers, and in certain parts of Data Buffet, the meaning has been generalized to non-U.S. areas.

How do FIPS codes and Data Buffet geo codes relate?

For counties and metro areas, the FIPS codes are numeric, but Moody's Analytics defines our own alphanumeric geo codes to be more easily memorable and (b) differentiate compositional changes that . For example, the "Abilene, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area (2000)" is officially designated 10180, but we call it "MABI" -- the "" prefix is common to all codes for MSAs, and "·ABI" derives from the place-name.

Moreover, FIPS codes for metro areas are not sufficiently distinct for our purposes. Their authority (U.S. Office of Management and Budget) may redefine an area (i.e., add or remove component counties) but retain its name and numeric code. By contrast, we assign a new geo code, because we need to differentiate datasets that report under both editions.

One of Data Buffet's subsystems is a geographic database that correlates, for each area, its name, FIPS code, and our geo code. This database includes both U.S. and international areas.

Display the FIPS code in basket output:

In the basket editor, go to

  • Red: Options » Fields » Geography Values
  • Blue: Settings » Fields » Geography Values

You can choose to display any or all of the following:

Control label Basket field What it provides
Full Description Geography Formal title of area (English translation)
FIPS Code FIP Official alphanumeric identifier
Moody's Analytics Code GeoCode Data Buffet alphanumeric geography code

Search by FIPS code

In (Red) Mnemonic 411's Search panel, the Geography field has three associated radio buttons: "MEDC," "Title," and FIPS." Using them, you can choose to specify an area by geo code, name, or FIPS identifier. If you've already entered one code, switching will translate it. For example:

PA003 = "Allegheny County (PA)" = 42003

Note that mnemonics always use Data Buffet geo codes. You can't append a FIPS code to one of our concept codes; if you try, you will elicit a "series not found" error.


Other countries likewise define official identifiers for their areas (within a "statistical geographic classification"), and we store these just as with the U.S. Although they are not literally "FIPS" codes, Data Buffet uses the same mechanisms and they will appear with the same basket headers as described above.

See also

  • FAQ: Why doesn't Data Buffet use provider geo codes?