Baby Names

The Social Security Administration has recently released the list of baby names here: Lists of baby names. The lists include data by year of birth, but do not include all names for privacy reasons. Read the explanation on their site if you want to know more. I downloaded the data by state and wrote a program to show the relative popularity of a name by state for a given time frame. It’s a fun toy. It’s clear that some names have a regional popularity (or unpopularity). For example, look at the two following graphs for the names Heidi and Ruby for the period 1910 to 1980. Colors are irrelevant and randomly assigned each run. Just look at the size of the circles.

Heidi1 Ruby1

The colored¬† circles represent the different states and are placed approximately in an analogous geographical position to the state. Labels are to the lower right of the circle that is labeled, i.e to the southeast. So in the lower of the two pictures, Wisconsin, for example, is shown by the light blue circle to the upper left of the “WI”.¬† In the upper picture it is a lighter, brighter blue and a larger circle. The larger the circle, the more popular that name was for babies within the time frame listed in that state. As can be seen, the name Heidi was more popular in northern, cold-weather states that in the south. This makes sense since it is a name popular in German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, i.e., cold, northern Europe. Immigrants from those countries tended to settle in colder climes. Ruby, on the other hand, showed an even stronger regional preference, but for the south.

But things change over time. Look at these next two graphs for a very recent period:

Ruby2 Heidi2

In the last five years or so Ruby has actually become more popular in the north than in the south, and Heidi has become more or less equally popular everywhere, although not as popular as it once was in the north. I don’t have a good explanation and I will refrain from speculating, but I did notice that most names that were very common in the early 20th century are less so now. In 1910, the most popular male name and female name each constituted over five percent of all baby names. I believe that people are less conventional these days so there are simply more variations and more different names today, thus resulting in no names that are close to the five percent mark.

My own name, Russell, was quite a bit more popular when I was born than it is now. If you want to see how popular your name was in the various states when you were born, or at any other time, for that matter, contact me. Or if you want a comparison of two different names, I can do that, too.¬† I will perform searches for the first ten people who contact me. Use the form below. I don’t want to know your date or even year of birth. I suggest sending me a 10-year date date range, or just list the name and year(s) you are interested in without indicating whose birth year it is. Be sure to indicate whether it is male or female, the exact spelling, and the date range (from 1910 to 2014) and explain specifically what you want. For example, compare how many male and female Terry’s were born in 2014.