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 well 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:

This is all based on proportional frequencies of names in professions, etc. (not just overly simplistic raw counts). I pulled 550,000 people from Wikipedia (all that had parse-able profession data) and 1.3 million people from the FEC’s campaign contribution database.  The top profession for a given name is the one in which the name is associated with the highest percentage of people in that profession (subject to some minimums for statistical relevance).  It uses the same kind of math for political party, ranked names within professions, and U.S. regional popularity.


Looks fun. Any plans to make it available for Android too?


Yup! That's down the road a bit, as it'll take some time to build.

tung bo

What would be the profession for a boy named Sue?

Bill N.

A&* kicker. That was his destiny, no?


This a surprisingly rich field of study.


Assuming this is true, this fascinates me because of its "link" to ancient mysticism (e.g., the Old Testament--and for that matter, the New) where one's name could play a significant role in destiny. For instance, Abram to Abraham; Jacob to Israel; on an on it goes, where one's name seemed to be almost a prophecy of the future. Go figure.


What is the causal reasoning here?


Determinism vs randomness.