If you've ever moved or thought about moving, you've probably worried about moving into a "bad neighborhood." A term that broad can mean all things to all people, and I try to avoid such generalities when telling Phoenix transplants about other parts of the valley. What does it really mean when a someone says that it's a "great neighborhood?" What does it mean when locals tell you to avoid a specific neighborhood?
Most importantly, what does it mean to you? Are you looking for a low crime rate, highly rated schools, or are you fearful of a large or diverse immigrant population? Are you expecting to run into a certain stereotyped person? Rather than speculation and personal judgments, I look for the facts. Numbers don't lie, which is why Zipskinny is such a neat tool.
What Zipskinny does is let you find all sorts of information about a geographic area by zip code. For example, the page for 85023 has a wealth of information about the social and economic makeup of Deer Valley. There's also a similar page available on City-Data.com. Now the information is based on the 2000 census, so I wouldn't take it as gospel or anything.
However, running the numbers can sometimes give you a completely different picture of a neighborhood than what you expected. Of course, the interesting part is comparing your zip code with that of nearby areas. Spend some time and play around with it, you might be surprised at what you find!
Update October 2015: The Zipskinny website no longer exists.