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Newer Places Breed Newer Names

A new study finds that parents in newer, “frontier” states choose less-common baby names than parents in older states (like the original 13). “In New England states, more babies were given the most popular boys’ and girls’ names than they were in frontier states – those in the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest. Statistical analyses showed the longer ago a state had achieved statehood, the more likely it was to have a higher percentage of people with one of the top 10 most popular baby names. The results held even after the researchers accounted for other factors that might impact baby-name choices, including population density, ethnicity of a state and median income.” The researchers observed a similar pattern across countries. Michael Varnum, one of the lead researchers on the study, points out that various early factors in frontier states “select for people who are high in individualism and foster and reward individualistic values such as uniqueness and self-reliance. This leads to regional cultures which perpetuate these values, which in turn shape behavioral practices, such as baby naming.” (HT: Eric Samuelson)