Monday, November 13, 2006


I have often wondered how parents choose names for their children. And why some names become trendy. Since most Americans do not follow the traditional anglo-american naming patterns that were common during the colonial era, how do they choose the name of their baby? Also, do parents look for different attributes in a girl's name compared to a boy's name?

I have plotted the top 100 names for each year from 1880 to 2005 for both boys and girls. This led to a list of 438 boys names and 330 girls names. I plotted the names based on their peak occurance year (x-axis) versus the yearly average popularity (y-axis). Most of the names have a single peak, some have multiple peaks, but I use the highest peak year. Some names have a sharp peak, and are very popular for only five years, while some names have a very dull peak, but are popular for decades. Originally, I segregated the names based on the shape of their curves (sharp peaks, dull peaks, multiple peaks, etc.), but I finally decided to show this one plot. The first thing I noticed from this plot is that the names bunch up at the ends. Of course this is because we don't have data for the years before 1880 and for the future. Not having that data makes a number of names peak at both temporal ends. If we ignore the first and last 20 years to "control" for this effect you can see that from 1900 to 1985 the number of names increases for girls. There is no such increase for boys names. So why are girls names becoming increasingly diverse?

The reason that I didn't show individual name profiles was because there is already a site that does it so well. Please visit the baby name wizard and have fun. If anyone would like a higher resolution image of the above I will be happy to send it as a pdf.


Blogger Zetsumetsu said...

That's fantastic! I'd love to see the original PDF - I'm on

9:14 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home