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Statistical Problems and Solutions in Onomastic Research: Exemplified by a Comparison of Given Name Distributions in Germany throughout the 20th Century

  • Denis Huschka
  • Gert G. Wagner

The German Socio Economic Panel Study (SOEP) offers the rare opportunity to look at patterns of given names amongst a representative sample of more than 50,000 people born since 1900. This article develops an exemplary picture of typical frequency distributions for given names and their developments over time. In this paper, we first discuss the advantages and limitations of various data bases which have been widely used to study the distribution of given names. Second, we address the problem that name distributions are typically characterized by a "Large Number of Rare Events" (LNRE) zone. With regard to this, we focus our attention on the difficulties associated with comparing name distributions. Third, we apply some measures of the concentration of distributions from other lines of research (economics and computational linguistics). Finally, we stress the problem of the statistical significance of differences in name distributions based on samples.

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Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 332.

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Length: 34 p.
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp332
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  1. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) – Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 139-169.
  2. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," NBER Working Papers 9938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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