Saturday, June 21, 2014

Playing with Popularity

It seems conventional wisdom--if you don't want your child to be 1 of 5 in a class, avoid a Top 10 name! Growing up in classrooms of multiple Jennifers, Jessicas, Ashleys, and/or Amandas, our generation is more determined than ever to give our children unique names. But does ranking really mean that much anymore?
There are more names in use than ever before, and more and more people are opting for uncommon names. To compare, about 5% of girls in 1937 were named the #1 name (Mary). In 1974, it was 4.1% (Jennifer). In 2012: 1.6%, including alternate spellings (Sophia).

To see it graphically:

Yes, it's in logarithmic scale to make the difference more apparent. The top names used to be significantly more common than the rest, but over time, the difference between each rank has gotten smaller. As you might have noticed, there is a point where the lines cross--where ranks in 2013 are actually more common than in 1937 (it's #193 to be exact).

The leveling of the naming pool, so to speak, means you're more likely to run into uncommon names than ever before. The Top 10 names comprised 8.8% of girls born in 2012 (combined-spelling lists); the Top 1000, 81.7%. That means you're over twice as likely to meet a girl with a name below the Top 1000 than you are to meet one with a Top 10 name! Of course, each individual Top 10 name is more likely than each individual below-the-Top-1000 name, but still--wow!
As you can probably guess, the numbers are bit more conservative for boys--9.2% getting a Top 10 name, and 85.8% getting a Top 1000. But still, you're more likely to meet a boy with a rare name than a Top 10 name.

Okay, that's enough nerdy numbers for now. Next post will have more fun names, I promise. ;)

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