Behind The Numbers: Baby-Name Data

One reason social scientists and others use U.S. baby names to study cultural trends is simply because the data are readily available.


The Social Security Administration has compiled names from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the U.S. after 1879 and posted the data on its website. The agency notes that many people who were born before 1937 never applied for cards. Also, the agency omits records if the place of birth is unknown or there are fewer than five people with the same name.


With those caveats, it is then up to researchers to decide how to use the data. For example, the Social Security Administration notes that spellings of names that sound the same vary–for example, Caitlin, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelyn and Katelynn–and it’s up to researchers to decide whether to combine them for the purposes of counting.

考虑这些局限之后,接下来如何来使用这些数据就取决于研究者了。例如社会保障局指出,发音相同的名字的拼法可能不同——比如凯特琳(Caitlin, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelyn和 Katelynn),是否将它们放在一起统计取决于研究者自己的意愿。

One researcher, Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, has used the components of baby names to show names are more likely to become popular when similar names have been popular recently. For example, following Hurricane Katrina, names that began with “K” increased by 9%.

宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院市场营销学的教授伯杰·约拿(Jonah Berger),通过新生儿名字的构成成分来说明,当某些事物变流行时,与之相似的名字更容易出现在新生儿中。例如在卡特里娜飓风(Hurricane Katrina)后,以“K”开头的名字增加了9%。

A more recent study that analyzed baby names to glean insight into the evolution of culture by Giorgio Parisi, a theoretical physicist at Sapienza University of Rome, and colleagues treats different spellings as distinct names and analyzes the distribution of names to identify states that cluster together.

来自萨皮恩扎(Sapienza) 大学的理论物理学家希奥尔西奥·帕里西(Giorgio Parisi)的一项新近研究,试图通过分析新生儿名字深入了解文化演进,他们视不同的拼写为不同的名字,同时根据名字的分布来识别那些起名更类聚化(cluster)的州。

The researchers’ work shows, among other things, that even when it comes to baby names, Southern states cluster together.


Dr. Parisi said he and his colleagues chose to study U.S. baby names because Italian names weren’t available. “We’re interested in doing Italy,” he said, “but we have not succeeded to get the data.”


Learn more about the findings of Dr. Parisi and his colleagues based on their study of U.S. baby names in The Numbers.

更多关于帕里西博士和他同事们基于美国新生儿名字的研究,请访问专栏The Numbers(



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