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The answer depends on data format. dBase-III+ files, which are used in shapefiles for attributes, are fixed-width, so defining a FIPS column to be 254 width text uses 254 bytes. Worse yet, dBase has a maximum record width of 4000 bytes, so the 249 wasted on a five character field aren't available for other fields (of which there is a maximum of 100 or 255, ...

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