Sunday, May 8, 2011

The changing baby name trends from 2010

Last Thursday, as they usually do right before Mother's Day, the U.S. SSA released their baby name data for 2010. One pattern that many are noticing is that the pattern of girls tending to get more trendy/unusual names than boys is diminishing or in some cases reversing. If you do the math from the percentages given on the SSA lists (don't use the actual numbers when comparing between years since that enters the birthrate into question), you will see that the percentages of girls being given a Top 10 name is going back up after an overall downward trend over the past several decades while the percentages of boys with a Top 10 name continues to go down. Also, if you take a look at Laura Wattenberg's NameVoyager and select to see either all of the girl or boy name data (but not both together) you'll see that the percentage of boys given a name that is less common than #1,000 continues to go up while it's basically flat (between 2009 and 2010) for girls.

What's the force behind the changing trends? Well, much of it falls on the rising generation of under-30 new parents: the Millennials (or Generation Y if you prefer). Although sexism in naming and other gender issues is certainly still there, for this new generation it is less so. From my experience, we're (I'm a member of this generation) less uptight about our boys standing up to traditional expectations. This leads to the continuing diversification of the boy name pool, as well as a slowing down of the "unisex name plight" to the girls in spite of the co-opting of such names continuing (the latter I've discussed before on my blog).

Although the Millennials may be more diversified in their name choices, from my predictions they will overall also be more "traditional" than Boomers or Xers were. This does not necessarily mean that they will go back to the stalwarts of their parents' day, but rather than going more "tryndee" they will likely go on routes like the "Exotic Traditionals" and the "Antique Revivals" (using terms from Wattenberg's book) that are becoming fashionable and go for those names that have a history but aren't saturated in usage to their ears. In cases like the Irish/Celtic trend, it will likely continue but we'll probably see more "authentic" Irish names rather than the "faux-Irish" names like Colleen and Erin (i.e. ones that aren't traditionally used as names in Ireland) that were common in the past.

Remember that with much I've posted this is a generalization. (If you have your own thoughts on the general trends they're certainly welcome though.)


  1. I think this post from another website proves your point right:

    "Franciscan Skemp Medical Center in La Crosse had an unusual year for names, with no name used more than twice among 502 boys born in 2010. The 25 names used twice were: Cameron, Dawson, Dominic, Gage, Cole, Simon, Daymen, Zachary, Jacob, Hayden, Aiden, Theodore, Micah, Jordan, Trenton, Bennett, Dakota, Jayden, Riley, Parker, Bentley, Chase, Grant, Elliott and Dylan."

  2. This is something I have also noticed - girls seem more likely to get a "standard" name, while parents are more daring with boy's names and tend to select something that's never been on the charts.

    When I collect the names from birth announcements, I eliminate a name once it's been used already, and highlight any name that seems especially interesting or unusual.

    I notice that although I eliminate a lot more boy names than girls, I also highlight a lot more boy names than girls.

    Although girls are more likely to be given a "unique" name, it's usually just a variant of a popular name (like Immygone), or a less common but still standard name (like Michelle).