19 Surprising Scientific Facts About Naming Babies

Judy Dutton | Dec 9, 2014 Pregnancy

baby feet with name tag

Few decisions during pregnancy are as fun -- and momentous -- as picking a name for your baby. But if you've ever wondered whether the eponym you pick has much of an impact on your child's life, read on. A slew of studies have found that the name you choose can make a big difference in the future cards your kid is dealt -- in terms of whether your kid becomes a rebel, gets many dates, and ultimately ends up successful.

Fascinating facts about baby naming

For more evidence that you should choose your name carefully -- and a little insight into why you chose the name you chose (yup, scientists have figured you out) -- check out this eye-opening research on the science of baby naming.

For more great baby name ideas and stories, visit BabyNameWizard


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  • Your Child's Name Betrays Your Political Stance

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    Democrats and Republicans don't only butt heads on social and economic issues, they also disagree on what makes a great name.

    By analyzing data from the Federal Election Commission, researchers at Verdant Labs found that baby name picks reveal political leanings of the parents. Jonah and Natasha, for instance, are names loved by Democrats; Duane and Brittney are adored by Republicans.

  • Kids Need a Middle Name to Succeed

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    Here's an easy way to give your baby a leg up in life: give him a middle name. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as he has one. That's according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, which found that people using a middle initial are held in higher esteem.

    Ever notice how doctors and lawyers typically sign forms and correspondences including their middle initial? Well, they're benefiting from that extra status boost.

  • Want a Math or Science Whiz? Avoid 'Girly' Names

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    If you're hoping that your daughter will be brilliant at math or science, here's a tip: avoid gracing her with a feminine name like Anna or Elizabeth, and instead opt for an androgynous alternative like Jordan or Harley.

    According to research at Northwestern comparing sisters' names and career paths, girls with "girly" names avoided math and science, most likely because they came to perceive themselves as more feminine -- so they steered clear of boy-heavy subjects.

  • Boys With 'Girly' Names Become Rebels

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    Think twice before you give a boy a feminine name: a study tellingly titled "A Boy Named Sue" published in Education Finance and Policy found that boys with girlish names like Ashley, Shannon, Jamie, and Courtney often ended up with behavioral problems by middle school.

    Plus, the effects were even stronger if a girl in their class had the same name.

    More from The Stir: 25 Rules of Baby Naming

  • Your Baby's Name Could Get Him Into a Top University

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    After examining the names of over 14,000 freshmen attending Oxford University between 2008 and 2013, researchers at UC Davis found that certain names attended Oxford more so than others.

    For instance, an Eleanor was 100 times more likely to attend than a Jade. Other names that had a good shot were Peter, Simon, and Anna. Granted, the name wasn't to blame; researchers surmised instead that certain names are just more popular among certain social groups who have different aspirations and opportunities.

  • Some Names Put Kids at Risk of Job Discrimination

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    In a study aptly titled "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal?" researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research sent out nearly 5,000 resumes in response to job ads.

    Job applications with traditionally "white" names needed to send out 10 resumes on average to get one call back. Meanwhile, applications with African-American names had it harder and needed to send out 15 for the same response rate.

  • Certain Names Get More Dates

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    Apparently certain names score more dates than others ... or so found a German study where researchers sent out 47,000 emails without photos to online daters. The most appealing names (like Alexander and Charlotte) received more than double the profile visits than daters with the duds (like Kevin and Mandy).

    More from The Stir: Most Hated Baby Names: Is Your Kid's on the List?

  • Baby's Name Could Make Him a Smoker

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    If you puff cigarettes on occasion, blame your name! The aforementioned German study found that people with unappealing names smoke more (which probably doesn't help their dating prospects).

    More from The Stir: Quiz: What's Your Perfect Baby Name?

  • A Bad Name Can Undermine Self-Esteem

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    Last but not least, the German study found that people with unattractive names suffer from lower self-esteem.

  • Your Computer Keyboard Picked Your Baby's Name

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    Spooky but true: a new study has found that due to the "QWERTY effect" -- a preference to use letters typed on the right side of the keyboard -- we're choosing baby names with more of those letters. Case in point: the names Violet, Olivia, Liam, and Noah are all popular, and typed mostly on the right. 

    More from The Stir: Quiz: What's Your Perfect Baby Name?

  • We Choose 'Big' Names for Boys and 'Small' Ones for Girls

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    Stereotypical though it is, many parents want big, strapping boys and small, feminine girls ... and their name choices reflect that. A British study has found that parents choose boy names that "sound large" (typically conveyed with the vowels a and o, like "James" or "Joel") while parents choose girl names with "small" sounds (typically conveyed with the vowels i and e, as in "Jill" or "Emily").

  • Baby Names Are More Unique Than Ever

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    If you're looking for an original name, well, join the club: in one study analyzing the names of more than 325 million babies born between 1880 and 2007, researchers found parents are steering clear of common names more than ever. In 1955, one-third of boys had one of the top 10 most popular names -- a percentage that had dwindled to one in 10 by 2007. For girls, one in four had a popular name in 1955; in 2007 it was one in 12.

    More from The Stir: 20 'Fiery' Baby Names Inspired by 'The Hunger Games'

  • But No Baby Name Is THAT Unique

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    Think your baby name is truly one of a kind? Well, here's a reality check: no matter how hard you try to buck the trends, you've subconsciously jumped on board. One study by UC Davis found that people choose names because they're fashionable -- rather than, say, due to their religion, family legacies, or what those celebs are up to (think about it: did anyone pick up on the name "Apple"?). Nope, people pick names that follow trends started by the "cultured" elite, who stop using the names once they've spread to the masses. This explains why names like David, James, Jennifer, and Sarah peaked and dipped just like the hemline of miniskirts over time.

  • Your Baby's Initials Impact Their Future GPA

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    Love the name Collin or Deborah? You may not feel so gung-ho after you hear what may happen once they're in school. Since people are subconsciously drawn to their own initials, researchers at UC San Diego found that students whose names began with C or D earned, well, C's and D's. Meanwhile, another study found that top law schools have more people with the initials A or B than lower-tier schools.

  • Easily Pronounceable Names Make Kids Seem Trustworthy

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    Who do you trust more: a stranger named "John Smith" or one named "Czeslaw Ratynska"? If you're leaning toward the former -- and still trying to figure out how to pronounce the latter -- you're in good company. According to a study by UC Irvine, people are more likely to trust people with easy-to-pronounce names.

    More from The Stir: 20 Roaring '20s Names Making a Comeback

  • Amid Terrorist Threats, We Name Kids After Dad

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    The practice of using patronyms, or naming kids after dads -- John Junior, Richard III -- is a time-honored tradition. Yet one study by the University of Oklahoma found that parents are more likely to pick patronyms in the face of terrorist threats. After 9/11, patronym use soared, and when researchers asked people to just think about imaginary terrorist attacks, their tendency toward patronyms increased. Meanwhile, the use of matronyms -- naming kids after moms -- was rare across the board. Not that we think they should be!

  • Your Baby's Name Could Indicate if They'll Behave

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    After surveying the names of more than 63,000 kids who reported their good behavior in online sticker books, the company School Stickers revealed the top 10 names on their naughty list: better watch out if you've got a Jake or Olivia! They also hailed the top 10 "nicest" names -- for instance, apparently children named Amy and Jacob are total angels.

    More from The Stir: The Most Common Baby Name in America Revealed

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