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What’s in a Name?

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  • Saku Aura
  • Gregory D. Hess

Abstract

Plenty. This paper analyzes two broad questions: Does your first name matter? And how did you get your first name anyway? Using data from the National Opinion Research Centers (NORC’s) General Social Survey, including access to respondents first names from the 1994 and 2002 surveys, we extract the important “first name features” (FNF), e.g. popularity, number of syllables, phonetic features, Scrabble score, “blackness” (i.e. the fraction of people with that name who are black), etc ... We then explore whether these first name features are useful explanatory factors of a respondent’s exogenous background factors (sex, race, parents’ education, etc...) and lifetime outcomes (e.g. financial status, occupational prestige, perceived social class, education, happiness, and whether they became a parent before 25). We find that first name features on their own do have significant predictive power for a number of these lifetime outcomes, even after controlling for a myriad of exogenous background factors. We find evidence that first name features are independent predictors of lifetime outcomes that are likely related to labor productivity such as education, happiness and early fertility. Importantly, however, we also find evidence based on the differential impacts of gender and race on the blackness of a name and its popularity that suggest that discrimination may also be a factor.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1190.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1190

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Keywords: names; identity; discrimination;

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  1. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 767-805, August.
  2. Levy, David M, 1997. "Adam Smith's Rational Choice Linguistics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(3), pages 672-78, July.
  3. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
  4. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  5. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2003. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 9873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Easily Pronounced Names May Make People More Likable
    by Dave Mosher in Wired Science on 2012-02-24 11:30:37
  2. By George! Easy names give off more positive associations
    by Peter Koval, PhD Researcher in Psychology at University of Leuven in The Conversation on 2013-07-24 19:39:57
  3. Agency & reciprocity in Corrie
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2013-01-03 14:24:45
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Cited by:
  1. Antecol, Heather & Cobb-Clark, Deborah A., 2004. "Identity and Racial Harassment," IZA Discussion Papers 1149, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Biavaschi, Costanza & Giulietti, Corrado & Siddique, Zahra, 2013. "The Economic Payoff of Name Americanization," IZA Discussion Papers 7725, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Solow, Benjamin L. & Solow, John L. & Walker, Todd B., 2011. "Moving on up: The Rooney rule and minority hiring in the NFL," Labour Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 332-337, June.
  4. Jurajda, Stepan & Münich, Daniel, 2006. "Admission to Selective Schools, Alphabetically," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 5427, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Stepan Jurajda & Daniel Munich, 2014. "Candidate Ballot Information and Election Outcomes: The Czech Case," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp500, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague.
  6. Franklin Mixon & Richard Cebula, 2012. "More is More: Some Economics of Distinctively-Named White Kids," Atlantic Economic Journal, International Atlantic Economic Society, International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 40(1), pages 39-47, March.

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