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Census Tract, shown in this example of Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston, forms the geographic building block in the collection and compilation of demographic and housing data of the US Census. It is relatively the most stable micro unit of census enumeration over time and provides a wealth of data.
Some of the geographic boundaries such as the Zip Code 02210 in South Boston, are 'predefined' by US Postal Service and adopted by other governmental, business or other entities. Similar predefined geographies are, for example, Congressional Districts, Towns & Cities, Electoral Districts, Zoning Districts, Conservation Areas, and Census Tracts.
When predefined boundaries are not useful for your purpose, you will define the area with your boundaries (Roads, streams etc.) Examples:
Area around sports stadium where traffic and parking have become a problem for you. You want to know how many dedicated parking slots are available within an area of your interest around the Fenway Park.
The 16 Planning Districts are Boston Redevelopment Authority demarcations of neighborhoods and used in planning and development activities of the city. Most of the demographic and socio-economic data for neighborhoods are presented based on this geographic frame. The composition of a planning district can be expressed in terms of census tracts and/or census block groups.