Archives for baby names



How Much Does Your Name Matter? A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

This week’s podcast is a rebroadcast of our episode called “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

The gist: a kid’s name can tell us something about his parents — their race, social standing, even their politics. But is your name really your destiny? Read More »



Sure-Fire Baby Names

Abby Haglage reports in The Daily Beast of an apparent uptick in firearm-inspired baby names.

In 2002, only 194 babies were named Colt, while in 2012 there were 955. Just 185 babies were given the name Remington in 2002, but by 2012 the number had jumped to 666. Perhaps the most surprising of all, however, is a jump in the name Ruger (America’s leading firearm manufacturer) from just 23 in 2002 to 118 in 2012. “This name [Ruger] is more evidence of parents’ increasing interest in naming children after firearms,” Wattenberg writes. “Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar.”

Okay, that’s all well and good, but if parents really want to show their gun bona fides, how about going all-out and naming your kid Colt .45?

(HT: Marginal Revolution)



A Baby Name That Really Tells You Something About the Parents

The underlying point of everything we’ve ever written about baby names is that the name is essentially the parents’ signal to the world of what they think of their kid — whether it’s a signal of tradition, religion, aspiration, affiliation, or whatnot.

Here is a very pure example of that principle: a baby named Colt .45 Stratemeyer. It’s via Jim Romenesko, from a birth announcement in the Tillamook (Oregon) Headlight-Herald:

Colt .45 Stratemeyer was born Nov. 26, 2013 at Tillamook Regional Medical Center. He weighed seven pounds, two ounces. He joins his older brother, Hunter Allen Stratemeyer, 3. Baby Colt’s parents are Joshua and Rebekah Stratemeyer of Toledo.

I assume the announcement is legitimate, though I can’t say for certain. I am guessing there are fiction writers out there who could write a short story or maybe even a novel with no more inspiration than this birth announcement.



How Much Does Your Name Matter?

Season 4, Episode 2

When Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney Googled her name one day, she noticed something strange: an ad for a background check website came up in the results, with the heading: “Latanya Sweeney, Arrested?” But she had never been arrested, and neither had the only other Latanya Sweeney in the U.S. So why did the ad suggest so? Thousands of Google searches later, Sweeney discovered that Googling traditionally black names is more likely to produce an ad suggestive of a criminal background. Why? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner investigates the latest research on names. Steve Levitt talks about his groundbreaking research on names, economic status, and race. And University of Chicago economist Eric Oliver explains why a baby named “Cody” is more likely to belong to conservative parents, and why another named “Esme” was probably born to a pair of liberals.



Judge to Mom: “Thou Shalt Not Name Thy Child ‘Messiah’”

Just another false messiah, it seems. From the Associated Press:

A judge in Tennessee changed a 7-month-old boy’s name to Martin from Messiah, saying the religious name was earned by one person and “that one person is Jesus Christ.” …

“It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is,” [Magristrate Lu Ann] Ballew said.

It was the first time she ordered a first name change, the judge said.

Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration’s annual list of popular baby names. …

The boy’s mother, Jaleesa Martin, of Newport, said she will appeal. She says Messiah is unique and she liked how it sounded alongside the boy’s two siblings — Micah and Mason.

I am eager to read your comments on this one.



A Story About Names Never Fails to Get Our Attention

Our recent podcast “How Much Does Your Name Really Matter?” generated a lot of response. Here are a few interesting ones. First, from F.D. Stein of Tennessee:

Loved this podcast; sorry you guys did not find the developer my company worked with in the 1980′s. He was from Oklahoma; his name was Never Fail. His brother was named Will Fail. Never (and his son Never Fail Jr.) were quite successful, and dashing examples of real estate developers at the time. 

I feared this one was too good to be true, but Mr. Google backs up Mr. Stein here, here, and here. Stein later wrote in with a further bit of comment:

They were the developer of Waterford Place Apartments in Chattanooga. Bill Severins was their project manager, former Kansas City Royals baseball player. Never Fail looked like Peter Grant of Mission Impossible; striking, tall, white hair perfectly groomed. The 1986 tax law killed them as real estate developers.

We also heard from Tim Harling, who shared his parental naming criteria: Read More »



An App for Names

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” A listener named Mark Edmond wrote in to tell us about Nametrix, a names app he created:

I’m a new dad who was researching baby names and whipped up an app in spare moments over the last year that tells you stuff like this:

It turns out that Ellen is a disproportionately common name for:

  1. psychotherapists
  2. librarians
  3. activists

Ellens also overwhelmingly lean toward the Democrat party and have tended to be most popular in the northeastern part of the U.S.

You can also see names ranked within professions, e.g., these are the top three names for guitarists:

  1. Trey
  2. Rusty
  3. Sonny

I have no idea how good Nametrix works on these dimensions. Having seen a lot of bogus names “data,” I am always a bit leery — especially because it is easy to mistake certain naming patterns for destiny while ignoring the more basic indicators like age, income, education, race, etc. I asked Mark how he assembled his data; here’s his reply: Read More »



How Much Does Your Name Matter? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

The gist: a kid’s name can tell us something about his parents — their race, social standing, even their politics. But is your name really your destiny?

The episode draws from a Freakonomics chapter called “A Roshanda By Any Other Name” and includes a good bit of new research on the power of names. It opens with a conversation with NYU sociologist Dalton Conley and his two children, E and Yo. Their names are a bit of an experiment:

CONLEY: Of course it’s hard to separate out cause and effect here until Kim Jong-Un allows me to randomly assign all the names of the North Korean kids…but my gut tells me that it does affect who you are and how you behave and probably makes you more creative to have an unusual name.

Indeed, there is some evidence that a name can influence how a child performs in school and even her career opportunities. There’s also the fact that different groups of parents — blacks and whites, for instance — have different naming preferences. Stephen Dubner talks to Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney about a mysterious discrepancy in Google ads for Instant Checkmate, a company that sells public records. Sweeney found that searching for people with distinctively black names was 25% more likely to produce an ad suggesting the person had an arrest record – regardless of whether that person had ever been arrested.  Read More »