Friday, May 18, 2012

"Boy Named Sue" and disruption study: More Flaws I found

I took another look at David Figlio's study on how he posits that boys with unisex names are more likely to be disruptive and/or misbehave. As I said in my first rebuttal to his study, I brought up the limited scope he conducted it under (one school district, only looking at one four-year age range) and how because of that you should take it with a grain of salt (since if other age ranges and/or school districts were to be studied we'd probably get different results).

I found two more ways this study may well not be as applicable as many (such as Nancy from Nancy's Baby Names, who has censored some comments I've made on her blog trying to disprove the applicability/validity of the study) make it out to be:

  • If you look at the graph on the fifth-from-last page on the study's page, you'll see that the effect he describes (misbehaving more come sixth grade) is a much smaller effect than the other variables, such as race and gender. Therefore this is a classic case where someone finds a small effect and makes it sound much bigger than it really is.
  • In the paper it mentions the studies were done during school years 1996-1997 and 1999-2000. That means the subjects in the study were born between the mid-1980s and the early-1990s (given he looked at students in grades 3-6 during those school years). A lot has changed in the baby naming scene since those students were born; for example, we've seen a large decline in the percentage of babies given a "common" name* (a larger drop than between any other two previous generations for as far back as the SSA list goes). Likewise there are many more unisex names in popular circulation than a generation ago (think about all the Averys, Haydens, Rileys, etc. of both genders among today's kids), and unlike with the Ashleys and Leslies of yesteryear many of today's unisex names are still popular on boys even with their usage on girls (and both genders are wearing them quite peacefully). What this means is a 2012-born unisex-named boy probably won't have the same "outcast" feel as a boy among the cohorts the study looked at, and that renders the study questionable at best when it comes to what you should or shouldn't choose for a baby name. *Because of that the same (studies done on those who would now be adults that would be of debatable applicability to naming modern babies) would also apply to any study that says that those with more "common" names are more likely to be successful; after all there are now no names as common percentage-wise as Jennifer, Jason, Linda, Robert, Mary, or John were back in their prime eras.

1 comment:

  1. I'm disappointed that your comments were censored (I'm not sure whether you mean edited or outright rejected) when this seems a completely valid objection to the study.

    In fact this is really the trouble with all studies - they are always done in the past, on people who grew up in completely different circumstances to the people born now.

    In regard to "common" names being more "successful" (however that is defined!), in my own completely unscientific study, I found that VERY common names were less likely to belong to famous people, and that men and women had slightly different patterns.