Phenomenon June 2005

Baby Names

Not all names are created equal. In the book Freakonomics the contrarian economist Steven Levitt and his co-author, Stephen J. Dubner, contend that a baby's name indicates more than just current cultural whims: it is a testament to the socio-economic and educational background of the parents. Working from a study of more than 16 million babies born in California since 1961, the researchers concluded that some names are most common among rich people and some among poor, some in families with more schooling and some in families with less. Here is a sampling of their findings.

INCOME. The name that parents give their child may be a reflection of wealth and cultural sophistication. Here are the leading names for white babies according to income.

Girls/High
1. Alexandra
2. Lauren
3. Katherine
4. Madison
5. Rachel
Girls/Low
1. Amber
2. Heather
3. Kayla
4. Stephanie
5. Alyssa
Boys/High
1. Benjamin
2. Samuel
3. Jonathan
4. Alexander
5. Andrew
Boys/Low
1. Cody
2. Brandon
3. Anthony
4. Justin
5. Robert

EDUCATION. A baby's name often reflects how much education his or her mother received. Here are the white babies' names associated with the highest and lowest levels of education in their mothers (average years of education in parentheses).

Girls/High
1. Lucienne (16.60)
2. Marie-Claire (16.50)
3. Glynnis (16.40)
4. Adair (16.36)
5. Meira (16.27)
Girls/Low
1. Angel (11.38)
2. Heaven (11.46)
3. Misty (11.61)
4. Destiny (11.66)
5. Brenda (11.71)
Boys/High
1. Dov (16.50)
2. Akiva (16.42)
3. Sander (16.29)
4. Yannick (16.20)
5. Sacha (16.18)
Boys/Low
1. Ricky (11.55)
2. Joey (11.65)
3. Jessie (11.66)
4. Jimmy (11.66)
5. Billy (11.69)
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