April 11, 2005

The Socio-Economic Impact Of "Super-Black" Baby Names

Slate is running a two-part excerpt from Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, a new book by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, which discusses the impact of giving babies super-black names (i.e., names that are far more common among blacks than among whites).

Their study sounds like a pitch for a buddy movie: Levitt, a white economist, teams up with Roland G. Fryer Jr., a black economist from Harvard, to perform regression analysis on the data from 16 million California birth certificates. [OK, so maybe it's not a great movie. Maybe it's on A&E.]

"There were also 228 babies named Unique during the 1990s alone, and one each of Uneek, Uneque, and Uneqqee; virtually all of them were black."

I hope I don't give away the ending if I tell you that their study shows super-black names don't actually create obstacles for a kid's career or education, but that they often are correlated with other social and economic disadvantages that do.

Here are their top 20 super-blackest and super-whitest names for boys and girls, plus the 20 top crossover names.

A Roshanda by Any Other Name [slate]
Coming tomorrow: "how names work their way down the socioeconomic ladder"

10 Comments

Number 11 on the cross over list !!! woot

I remember seeing a 20-20 piece on this where they took a bunch of recent black college grads who had "super-black" names. They took their resumes and put them on Monster.com and similar sites. They then took the same resume and posted it with simple "white" names like Judy and Jane. Every one of them received far more inquiries for the "white" name rather than the "black" name.

My wife is half-black and we steered away from these types of names because of this. Perhaps we overreacted?

I am 31 years old and my name is Sheniqua. I am very proud of it! When I was younger, I always wished my name was Ann or Sue, something that someone could pronounce. But now that I am older, I appreciate the uniqueness and diversity that the name represents. It's my name. When I introduce myself, most people say, "Sha-what?", and I pronounce it again slowly (thinking to myself, "If you weren't so closed-minded then you might be able to hear it"). We live in a diverse society and different people have different ways of expressing their diversity even in their children's names and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The problem is not with the names; the problem is in the racist views of society. Unfortunately, people make judgements about others based on their race only (or name) and this is clearly discrimianatory. This is not the fault of the child or the parent. No one should have to disguise their cultural background in order to succeed in this society. This is proof that discrimination and racial prejudices still exist. By now you would have guessed from my name that I am African-American. I am highly perturbed when people don't take the time to pronounce my name correctly even after I've pronounced it for them or pre-judge me because they think my name is "ghetto fabulous". I am well-educated with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and working on a Masters in Public Health Epidemiology and I am always stunned when people say things like, "I never knew someone named 'Sheniqua' could be so smart." The nerve of some people. I am SHENIQUA and I wouldn't change it for the world!

hi my name is blake and im a girl every time i write my name on something they think im a boy im going to change my name

i love my name people be laughing like you mom was on crack when she had you but my name is unique and no one has it im fourteen and i love my name to the fullest

i love my name people be laughing like you mom was on crack when she had you but my name is unique and no one has it im fourteen and i love my name to the fullest

[thanks for the comments, Unique. -ed.]

My name is Treelenna Many people don't know how to say my name but i am proud of my name it makes me feel like i am a indivial no one i know has the same name as me.

I can't stand ghetto names that are made up and have no meaning. Anything that has a qua,trice, ,sha,she,isha,esha, dra,nae, at the beginning or end of it is just GHETTO!!!!!!

Oh and also ,ika,eka,tra,

Ta'

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