How Your Name Is Linked To Wealth, Adverts, Intellect And Voting

June 26, 2013 in Daily Bulletin


The rightly famous Freakonomics writers had a recent podcast discussing the economic impact that your name has on your life:

  • Levitt and Dubner looked at children born into similar situations: age of mother, healthcare plan, parents’ marriage status etc…but who differed by having a distinctly black or traditional white sounding name. The result; there was no correlation. Name has no effect on lifetime economic well-being.
  • This contrasts with a study found that sending out a resume with a white sounding name has a 50% higher chance of getting a call-back than sending an identical resume with a black sounding name.
  • Perhaps this seeming contradiction can be explained by most people not finding jobs through sending resumes; it’s all about networks. It may be having a black sounding name helps with finding a job in a black community.
  • Adverts on Google have an unpleasant trend. Black names typed into a Google search are 25% more likely to come up with the advertisment “(name) arrested” than white names
  • But, Google says the way the algorithm works is that ads are weighted in favour of what gets clicked. So what the data actually shows is that “(black name) arrested” is 25% more likely to be clicked than “(white name) arrested”
  • When it comes to parents choosing names, there are a couple of interesting trends. One is that almost every name that becomes popular started out as a high-class or high education name. After a couple of decades these names work their way down the income strata, becoming prevalent in lower income families and much less common in high-income families.

Click here for the podcast or here for the transcript. Read or listen on to hear the perspective of fifteen year old E Harper Nora Jeremijenko-Conley, how parents signal intellect through their children’s names and how naming trends vary between liberal and conservative households.

Source: Freakonomics