December 18, 2001

by Michael W. Shackleford, A.S.A Office of the Chief Actuary

Name Distributions in the Social Security Area

Wow! Name Distributions!

Actually, it's pretty fascinating, with detailed rankings of the most popular US first names over the past century, broken down by year, decade, state, and more. Sure, you'll want to check your own name first (Kenneth was a robust #31 during the 70's), but there's plenty of interesting tidbits. Here's a few:

1. Turns out it wasn't a coincidence, that I really did meet far more Jennifers in high school and college than any other name. There were more Jennifers named during the 70's than the next two names (Amy and Melissa) combined.

2. Looks like by the time I'm ready for the home there's gonna be a lot of Dylans and Madisons out there as doctors, lawyers, and bankers, which will take some getting used to. Dylan has skyrocketed over the past few decades, from being unranked in the 60's (which seems surprising), to #392 in the 70's, #193 in the 80's, and now up to #37 in the 90's.

As for Madison, it wasn't even in the top 500 during the 80's, but (like Dylan) was the 37th most popular name for in the 90's, and was a shocking #3 in the year 2000. Rachel has been trying to figure out Why Madison? The Bridges of Madison County fans having kids? Splash fans coming of age?

3. The first year this century that John wasn't one of the top-three names for boys in the US: 1953.
The first year this century that Mary wasn't one of the top-three names for girls in the US: 1965.

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