Frequently Asked Questions on the Low-Income Designated Area Workbook

The NCUA’s Low-income Designated Area Workbook provides lists of geographic areas showing where a majority of residents fall below the NCUA’s low-income threshold. The geographic areas are listed by county, census tract, census block group, and zip code. The information covers all of the United States and Puerto Rico.

If a member resides within any of the listed geographic areas, you can count that member as low-income. The NCUA designates a federally insured credit union as low-income when more than 50 percent of the credit union’s members reside in a low-income area.

How Will the Information in the Workbook Assist Us?

There are at least two ways a credit union can use the information in this workbook.

  • To further its low-income outreach by specifically targeting potential new members residing in one of the low-income designated geographic areas within the field of membership.
  • To monitor how many existing or potential new members reside within a low-income geographic area.

How Is the Workbook Organized?

The workbook has five worksheets. There are worksheets for each of the four geographic areas (county, census tract, census block group and zip code), and one that identifies which counties fall within a core-based statistical area (CBSA):

  • County/Census Tract/Census Block Group — These worksheets each contain information for the following applicable categories:
    • Federal Information Processing Standard state code
    • Federal Information Processing Standard county code
    • State abbreviation
    • County name
    • Census tract number
    • Census block group number
  • Zip Code — This worksheet is set up to contain information for the following categories:
    • Zip Code Tabulation Area or ZCTA
    • Core-based Statistical Area or CBSA
    • CBSA Name
    • Qualify or Conditional Qualify

What Is A Federal Information Processing Standard Code?

A Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) code is a unique number that identifies a state and a county or its equivalents. A state code is two digits and a county code is three digits.  For example, there is an 11 digit unique FIPS code assigned to each census tract. FIPS Code 48-201-533701 means it is located in Harris County, Texas. The 48 (first two digits) is the FIPS code for Texas, the 201 (next three digits) is the FIPS code for Harris County, and the 533701 (next six digits) identifies the specific census tract located in Harris County, Texas.

What Is A Core-based Statistical Area?

A core-based statistical area (CBSA) is a U.S. geographic area defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that consists of one or more counties (or equivalents) anchored by an urban center of at least 10,000 people, plus adjacent counties that are socioeconomically tied to the urban center by commuting. A CBSA is the FIPS metropolitan area code.

How Can I Locate Which Counties Are Part of a Specific CBSA Code?

In the CBSA worksheet, there is a list of the counties within each CBSA code. This information will assist in determining if a zip code qualifies that has a conditional “Yes” response.

What Does it Mean When a County Is on the County Worksheet?

Any resident of that county that is or becomes a member of the credit union will count towards the credit union qualifying for the NCUA’s low-income designation.

What Does it Mean When a Census Tract Is on the Census Tract Worksheet?

Any resident of that census tract that is or becomes a member of the credit union will count towards the credit union qualifying for the NCUA’s low-income designation.

What Does it Mean When A Census Block Group Is on the Census Block Group Worksheet?

Any resident of that census block group that is or becomes a member of the credit union will count towards the credit union qualifying for the NCUA’s low-income designation.

What Does it Mean When a Zip Code Tabulation Area Is on the Zip Code Worksheet?

The meaning of zip codes included in the worksheet depends on the response displayed in the last column title “Qualify.” The “Qualify” column will have one of the following responses:

  • Yes
  • Yes, if falls within one of the CBSA counties
  • Yes, if falls outside one of the CBSA counties

The specific type of response in the “Qualify” column will determine if residents within the entire zip code or just a portion of that zip code will assist the credit union with qualifying for the NCUA’s low-income designation. A full “Yes” response means no additional review of county information is necessary.

A conditional yes response of “Yes, if falls within one of the CBSA counties,” or “Yes, if falls outside one of the CBSA counties,” requires an additional review of the county information because only a portion of the zip code area qualifies. As a result, only a portion of residents from zip codes with conditional responses will qualify, depending on the results of the additional review of the county information. The table below provides an explanation of each type of the three responses.

Type of Responses
Type of Response “Qualify” Column Value Explanation
Full Yes Yes This means any resident of that zip code that is or becomes a member of the credit union will count towards the credit union qualifying for the NCUA’s low-income designation.
Conditional Yes Yes, if falls within one of the CBSA counties This means the zip code covers counties that are part of a CBSA, and not part of that CBSA.  Therefore, if the resident for that zip code resides within one of the counties listed for that CBSA, then that resident will count towards the credit union qualifying for the NCUA’s low-income designation if they are or become a member of the credit union.
Yes, if falls outside one of the CBSA counties This means the zip code covers counties that are part of a CBSA, and not part of that CBSA.  Therefore, if the resident for that zip code does not reside within one of the counties listed for that CBSA, then that resident will count towards the credit union qualifying for the NCUA’s low-income designation if they are or become a member of the credit union.

The image below illustrates how to determine which residents in a zip code would qualify if that zip code has a conditional yes response. As shown in the zip code worksheet, ZCTA 58266 has a conditional yes response. This means zip code 58266 covers more than one county and at least one of those counties is not part of the Grand Forks, ND-MN, core-based statistical area (code 24220).

Screenshot from Excel spreadsheet showing the Zip Code Tabulation Area, CBSA, CBSA Name, and if it Qualifies and if the Zip Code falls outside one of the CBSA counties.  This shows that zip code 58266 is located both within the Grand Forks, ND-MN CBSA and outside of it.

To determine which counties are part of the Grand Forks, ND-MN, core-based statistical area, review the CBSA worksheet. As shown in the CBSA worksheet, Polk County and Grand Forks County are the two counties that comprise the 24220 CBSA code.

Screenshot from Excel spreadsheet displaying which counties are included in a particular CBSA.  This shows that Polk County, Minnesota and Grand Forks County, North Dakota are the counties in CBSA 24220.

Based on the conditional yes response for zip code 58266 of “Yes, if falls outside one of the CBSA counties,” any resident with a 58266 zip code residing outside of either Polk County or Grand Forks County would count towards the credit union’s low-income designation.  Alternatively, any resident with a 58266 zip code residing in Polk County or Grand Forks County would not count towards the credit union’s low-income designation.

The following illustrates the same concept, but instead shows the areas on a map. The purple colored area is zip code 58266.  The pink colored area is Nelson County and the green colored area is Grand Forks County. Residents with a zip code of 58266 residing in Nelson County would count towards the credit union’s low-income designation because Nelson County is not part of the 24220 CBSA code.  For those residents of Grand Fork County with a zip code of 58266, they would not qualify because Grand Forks is part of the 24220 CBSA Code.

Map of Zip Code 58266 Covering Nelson and Grand Forks Counties

Map showing that zip code 58266 spans Grand Forks County and Nelson County. Residents with a zip code of 58266 residing in Nelson County would count towards the credit union’s low-income designation because Nelson County is not part of the 24220 CBSA code.  For those residents of Grand Fork County with a zip code of 58266, they would not qualify because Grand Forks is part of the 24220 CBSA Code.
Purple is Zip Code 58266. Pink is Nelson County and Green Is Grand Forks County

Last modified on
05/23/19