Does your Social Security number tell where you are from?

Your Social Security number is a unique 9-digit code assigned to you by the Social Security Administration. The first three digits of your Social Security number are known as the area number and these digits can provide some indication of the state where you applied for your Social Security number as a child or adult. However, there are some important caveats to consider when trying to determine someone’s place of birth or residency based on their Social Security number alone.

What Do the First 3 Digits Tell You?

The first three digits of your Social Security number are referred to as the area number. These digits originally indicated the state where you applied for your Social Security number. However, the area number does not necessarily reflect the state of birth or current residency. Here’s some additional information about Social Security area numbers:

  • Area numbers ranging from 001-003 indicate New Hampshire.
  • 004-007 indicate Maine.
  • 008-009 indicate Vermont.
  • 010-034 indicate Massachusetts.
  • 035-039 indicate Rhode Island.
  • 040-049 indicate Connecticut.

This pattern continues up to area number 728-729 which indicates Arizona. Area numbers above 729 are not assigned. The complete list of area number ranges and corresponding states can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website.

So in theory, looking up the state associated with the first three digits of someone’s Social Security number could provide a clue as to where they were living when they applied for their number. However, there are a number of reasons why this will not reliably indicate someone’s place of birth.

Why the Area Number Does Not Necessarily Indicate Place of Birth

There are several important caveats to consider when trying to use Social Security numbers to determine place of birth:

People can apply for Social Security numbers outside their state of birth

While many people apply for an original Social Security number as children within their state of birth, this is not always the case. People who are born in one state but move to another state as children will likely apply in their new state of residency. Additionally, some people may wait to apply for an original Social Security number until adulthood, possibly decades after their actual birth. The area number will reflect the state of application, not necessarily their birth state.

People can move after receiving their Social Security number

The area number reflects the state of application only up through when the Social Security number was assigned. If someone then moves to another state, their area number will not update or change to reflect their new state of residence. The area number permanently remains the same based on that original application.

Special area number codes for military applications

Those who apply for Social Security numbers through the military application process may have special area numbers that do not correspond to any U.S. state.

Examples of Special Military Area Numbers
  • 580-584 – Puerto Rico
  • 586 – Philippines
  • 586-595 – Pacific island jurisdictions
  • 596-599 – Hawaii
  • 600-601 – D.C.
  • 602-626 – Mississippi
  • 627-699 – Unassigned

So if someone has an area number within one of these special ranges, their place of birth cannot be identified.

Some area numbers are reused in different states

While the Social Security Administration originally allocated specific area numbers to each individual state, over time some area numbers were exhausted and then later reused and reassigned to a different state.

Example of Reassigned Area Number

034-039 were originally assigned to Massachusetts and then later reassigned to Illinois.

So someone with 034 could have been born in either Massachusetts or Illinois. Looking up the area number alone is not enough to definitively pin down the state.

Fraudulent Social Security numbers

Unfortunately, many people use fraudulent Social Security numbers that include an area number that does not match their actual state of birth or residence. Criminals will often purchase stolen Social Security numbers that contain desirable area numbers associated with states other than their own birth state. Or they may fabricate numbers with random digits. In these cases, zero information about geographic origins can be reliably gleaned from numbers that are used fraudulently or do not belong to that individual.


In summary, while Social Security area numbers originally corresponded to the state of application, they do not necessarily indicate someone’s actual place of birth with any reliability due to a number of complicating factors. The area number reflects, at best, where someone applied for their original Social Security number as a child or adult, not their birth state or origins. People relocate, area numbers are reused for different states, special codes are used for military applications, and fraudulent numbers abound.

For these reasons, it is difficult-to-impossible to pinpoint an individual’s place of birth based on the first three digits of their Social Security number alone. Additional information such as birth certificates, affidavits, or other documentation would be needed to conclusively determine where someone was born within the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you tell what state someone was born in by their Social Security number?

No, the Social Security number alone does not reveal what state someone was born in. The first three digits, known as the area number, only reflect the state where the person applied for the Social Security number originally as a child or adult. Their place of birth is not necessarily the same as where they applied.

What information is revealed by the first 3 digits of a Social Security number?

The first three digits reveal the state where the person applied for their original Social Security number. This state is not necessarily the same as their place of birth, especially if they moved or immigrated after being born. The area number reflects state of application, not birth state.

How are Social Security numbers assigned by state?

The Social Security Administration assigns blocks of numbers associated with each state. The first three digits correspond to the state where the application was processed. So numbers are assigned consecutively within each area number block for each state’s residents applying for numbers.

Can Social Security numbers be used to find people’s birthplace?

No, Social Security numbers alone do not reveal birthplace or origins accurately. The area number indicates state of application only. Also, area numbers have been reused across states over time. Place of birth can differ from application state due to relocations. Special codes are used for military applications. And fraudulent numbers have random area digits.

Why don’t Social Security numbers always indicate your state of birth?

There are a few key reasons:

  • People can apply in a different state than their birth state if they moved as a child.
  • Adults immigrating to the U.S. will apply in their residence state, not their foreign birth country.
  • People keep the same area number their entire life, even if they move states after receiving their number.
  • The military uses special area number codes.
  • Some area numbers have been reused by different states.

Can I tell if someone was born in my state from their Social Security number?

No, their area number only indicates where the application was processed, which is not necessarily their birth state. Many people relocate after birth or apply from a different state than they were born for other reasons. You cannot reliably infer their state of birth from the Social Security number alone.

State Popularity for Social Security Number Applications

While Social Security numbers don’t reveal birthplaces, the first three digits can show relative popularity of certain states for Social Security number applications over time.

Here is a table showing the top 10 states by frequency of Social Security number area numbers originally assigned within each state between 1935-2019, based on Social Security Administration data:

State Total Social Security Numbers Issued Percent of Total
California 69,978,374 13.3%
New York 49,247,527 9.3%
Texas 37,150,745 7.0%
Florida 20,613,813 3.9%
Pennsylvania 20,211,680 3.8%
Illinois 18,663,564 3.5%
Ohio 18,429,241 3.5%
New Jersey 11,320,785 2.1%
Michigan 10,521,654 2.0%
North Carolina 10,408,143 2.0%

This table demonstrates that while Social Security numbers themselves cannot pinpoint birthplace, the area number distributions across states can provide insight into population trends over time. The most populous states like California, Texas, and New York have had the most Social Security number issuances. This likely reflects a combination of birth rates as well as migration patterns into certain states.

Social Security Number Randomization

In recent years, steps have been taken to further break down the geographic significance of Social Security numbers. Since 2011, the SSA has introduced randomized Social Security numbers to newly issued cards in certain states participating in the Social Security Number Randomization Program.

Under this program, the area number no longer correlates directly to the state of residence. Instead, it is assigned randomly from a pool of available area numbers. This adds an additional layer of complexity for anyone trying to analyze Social Security numbers for geographic patterns.

The SSA randomization program aims to inhibit misuse of Social Security numbers and deter fraud or identity theft based on presumptions about individuals’ states of origin. While the program started small, it has continued expanding to additional states and it seems likely the SSA will make randomized Social Security numbers standard nationwide in the future.

States Participating in Randomized SS Number Issuance

  • Delaware
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Arizona (partial, rolled out slowly)
  • New Mexico (partial rollout)

So Social Security numbers issued in these states no longer correspond directly to residence location. This randomization adds yet another layer of complexity and uncertainty around presuming birth state or location based on Social Security numbers.

Significance of Full Nine Digits

While the first three digits of a Social Security number offer limited locality clues, the full nine digit number does have individual significance in terms of when and where it was issued.

Here is an overview of what each component of a full Social Security number indicates:

  • First three digits – Area number indicating state of application
  • Next two digits – Group number between 01-99 for each area number prefix indicating when the application was processed within that sequence of area numbers
  • Final four digits – Serial number between 0001-9999 assigned consecutively by birth year for each group number

The combination of area number, group number, and serial number together forms a unique identifier that is tied to both time and place of issuance.

While the area number cannot pinpoint birth place, the other digits can provide clues about year of birth as well as order and timing of when the number was processed relative to applications within that area prefix.

Full SSN Example

SSN: 153-45-6789

– Area Number: 153 = originally assigned to Wisconsin
– Group Number: 45 = assigned sometime between 1945-1949 for numbers 153000001-153999999
– Serial Number: 6789 = indicates this specific SSN was approximately the 6,789th number issued sequentially in the 153-45 group block

So while the 153 doesn’t reveal birthplace, it provides some contextual clues about when and where this number was issued, which can aid identification and validation. The uniqueness of the 9 digit code links the number to the original application.

Strategies for Estimating Birth Location

Since Social Security numbers alone do not reliably indicate birth state except in a minority of straightforward cases, here are some strategies genealogists and researchers could use instead to attempt to narrow down individuals’ likely state of birth:

Search historical records

– Birth certificates
– Baptismal records
– Family bible notations
– Birth announcements in newspapers
– Early school registration records
– Early childhood census records

These types of primary source records can provide definitive documentation of birthplace.

Look for immigration or residency documentation

For foreign-born individuals, look for:

– Passenger arrival records
– Visas or green cards showing year of relocation
– Naturalization paperwork

These can provide information on year and port of immigration to estimate likely timeline and state of Social Security number application.

Consider family migration patterns

– Birth locations of parents and older siblings
– Locations of grandparents, aunts/uncles to identify family origins
– Residences during adulthood can indicate where they lived when applying for a number

Filling in family history can provide contextual clues about movement and locations.

Research based on age

– Social Security was not universal initially – first available 1935 with limited rollout
– Full childhood coverage by end of 1965
– Mandated in 1986 for parents claiming dependents

Someone’s birth year provides clues about when they could first obtain a number which indicates where it was allowed and rolled out at that time.

While Social Security numbers themselves do not reveal birthplaces, a more expansive genealogical research approach can surface supplemental records and context to zero in on individuals’ likely state of birth.


In summary, Social Security numbers are not a reliable indicator of someone’s actual place of birth on their own. While Social Security area numbers originally corresponded to the state where someone applied, numbers do not update as people relocate throughout their lives. Special military service codes are also used. Additionally, some area number groups have been reused in multiple states over time.

For these reasons, it is difficult or impossible to pinpoint birthplace based on Social Security numbers alone. The area number provides limited clues about where someone applied for their original number as a child or adult, but this will differ from birth state in many cases. To determine birth state, additional documentation and research would be needed to ascertain location independently of the Social Security number itself.

While Social Security numbers have individual significance in terms of when and where they were issued, sole reliance on Social Security numbers to infer birthplace or origins can be unreliable or lead to incorrect assumptions. A person’s state of birth, residence, or SSN application should be verified through other records rather than assumed based on SSN digits alone in order to avoid errors.

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