American Names · Analysis

Naming Between the States


This week I’ve started to analyze American name popularity at the state level.  Usually I discuss the national data on this blog, but let’s face it – the U.S. is a huge country.  What’s popular in one state or region isn’t necessarily going to be popular in another.  In fact, I’m finding that just a few states can account for most of a single name’s popularity in the national data.

I will post more of the nitty-gritty details within once I have a chance to examine the data more thoroughly, but here are a few general observations and things to know:

  1. If a name makes the top 100 in California or Texas, it automatically ranks in the national top 1000 because their respective populations are so huge.  There are another couple of states (New York is one of them, I think) where boys’ names are also automatically in the American top 1000. 
  2. States that border Mexico and others that have significant Spanish-speaking populations have their own naming style.  Names like Iker, Angel, Carlos, Ximena, Daleyza, and Genesis are far more likely to appear on these states’ top 100 lists.  
  3. Considering points 1 and 2, this means that California and Texas comprise a large portion of a name’s popularity within the U.S. and may even be responsible for propelling some names into the national top 100 or 200.  Mateo, the Spanish form of Matthew, was given to almost 5,000 baby boys last year.  1409 were born in California and 1048 were born in Texas.  Not even counting all the states where Mateo might also have been popular, that’s almost half of last year’s Mateos born in just two states!
  4. States with tiny populations seem more likely to have more unusual names pop up in their top 100s.  These often are names that are in the top 1000, but don’t usually appear in other states’ top 100 and might rank nationally somewhere in the 400-700 range.  Montana lists Remington as one of its top 100 girls’ names.
  5. Keep in mind, states with tiny populations have very little influence on national name popularity. 
  6. New York and New Jersey both have larger numbers of distinctly Jewish names.  Rivka and Moshe are only in the top 100 for those states, and these two states account for about 88% of baby boys named Moshe last year.  There are also a number of Old Testament names like Rachel and Esther that nowadays only appear on the top 100s of these states.
  7. New York and New Jersey are also notable for the popularity of many Italian names.  Only in those two states will you find Giovanni as a top 100 name.  Names like Anthony, Gianna, and Valentina also rank higher than their national averages there.
  8. Mary is still very popular in parts of the Deep South (10th most popular girls’ name in Mississippi!) but otherwise the region seems to favor more modern names.  I was surprised to note that Londyn is actually a more popular spelling than London in Alabama, for example. 
  9. Hawaii has a top 100 that looks very different from top 100s in the rest of the country, and several of Hawaii’s popular names don’t even appear in the national top 1000.  Obviously most of these are Hawaiian (Leilani, Keanu), though I thought I saw at least one Japanese name.
  10. Noah and Emma may be the overall #1 names in the U.S., but many states differ from that national.  Many states have William or Liam as the #1 boys’ name and Olivia or Ava for the girls. 

I’ll post more detailed information in the future.  I’m really glad I took a look at the state data though.  Among other things, this has given me greater clarity into why and how certain names remain ‘popular’ on the national level, and which names to look out for in the future.


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