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If you or your significant other are possibly going to give birth at midnight on New Year's Eve, you need to pick a name that will sound cool in 30 years when the kid is watching the dumb local news report about it. In 2012, no state predicted trendy names better than California. So we looked to see what California had to recommend.

The Social Security Administration publishes data about the names people use to register new Social Security numbers. In other words: new baby names. The agency breaks the data down by year and state, allowing some insight into how Americans conduct the mystical practice of name selection. 

We wanted to see which states were more likely to be ahead of the game in picking popular names, and to see what might be on the horizon. So we looked at the names which entered the 100 most popular for boys and girls in 2012 (the most recent year for which data is available). For boys, those names were: Jace, Hudson, Easton, Damian, Kayden, and Ryder. For girls: Skylar, Aria, Reagan, Piper, and Annabelle.

Then we looked to see where those names — any of which could still become top-ranked names in the future! — first appeared on the national radar. There are two trend-setting states: California and Texas. The image at right shows the states where "Hudson" first appeared, as an example. (Darker states started naming kids "Hudson" before lights ones; an interactive version of this map is below.) California and Texas' dominance is largely due to population; more kids means more influence over national statistics. But population isn't the only factor — notice Georgia. 

By averaging the rank at which states adopted the 11 newly popular names in 2012, we were able to establish how each state fared, from California in first place to Vermont, in last. On the map below, darker states saw people using these newly popular names earlier on average than lighter-colored states. In other words, darker states set the trends.

(Full data for when states first saw the popular 2012 names appear on their lists is below. We only used data from after 1950, given the recent resurgence in popularity of names from a century ago.)

Knowing that California was earlier in picking newly trendy names than any other state, we then looked at the data to see which names just suddenly started to pop up in the state. And so we can offer some recommendations for what to name your baby. If it's a boy, California recommends Riyan, Xian, or Icker. A girl? Kataleya, Adley, or Shanik.

There you go. Now you have a name that will look great on TV for decades to some. Someday, little Icker will thank you for your foresight.

Below are maps showing the year during which each state first saw the eleven newly popular names from 2012 appear. In each map, the darker the state, the earlier it saw residents naming their kids whatever name is indicated. The first six maps, the blue ones, are boys' names. The next five, purple, are girls'.


First states: 1956, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas

Last state: 2010, Vermont


First state: 1983, Georgia

Last state: 2011, Vermont


First state: 1983, California

Last states: 2012, Delaware, New Hampshire


First states: 1951, New York, Pennsylvania

Last state: 2001, Hawaii


First state: 1991, Utah

Last state: 2009, Washington, D.C.


First state: 1971, California

Last state: 2011, Delaware


First state: 1985, California

Last state: 2004, Vermont


First state: 1973, California

Last state: 2012, South Dakota, Wyoming


First state: 1964, California

Last state: 2011, Vermont


First state: 1952, California, Texas

Last state: 2012, Washington, D.C.


First state: 1951, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas

Last state: 2010, Washington, D.C.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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