April 13, 2005

Freakonomics Gets All Fakeonomic On Baby Naming Trends

The Freakonomics guys shoulda quit while they were ahead. Their excerpt on how and why baby names proliferate is not only not very freaky, it's pretty flimsy. Reading it, it felt like any tuned-in parent would have a better sense of the naming landscape than these too-smart economists.

Their basic claim is that aspirational poor people give their kids names that were once popular among rich people, as if they picked them up at the Junior League thrift shop. [What, it's easier than picking all the monograms off?] The draw this conclusion from the delayed appearance of a couple of names on top ten lists, but then they wrap these tiny findings in phrases like, "There is a clear pattern at play," and "the implication is clear," when, frankly, it feels like they're coasting.

A couple of weeks ago, my buddy Felix, whose a business and finanial markets journalist, did a pretty righteous takedown of Freakonomics. And while the super-black name thing seemed persuasively presented, this "my gardener's named Winthorp" section is just freaky bad.

Trading Up [slate]
Freakonomics [felixsalmon.com]

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