First names – more variety for Girls

May 20, 2006

I am currently looking at first names in order to improve the 'natural language geocoder'. It is curious to see that it needs 4200 first names for girls to cover 90% of the population, but it only needs 1200 boy's names to reach a 90% coverage. The reason for this huge difference is mainly found in the top positions. The ten most popular male names reach 23% whereas the ten most popular female names reach a comparatively meager 10%.

The question is: why are parents looking for variety in a name for a girl and far less for a boy? Any ideas?

Source : US Census

PS, just in case you want to know the most popular names :

name           freq   cum.freq  rank
MARY           2.629  2.629      1
PATRICIA       1.073  3.702      2
LINDA          1.035  4.736      3
BARBARA        0.980  5.716      4
ELIZABETH      0.937  6.653      5
JENNIFER       0.932  7.586      6
MARIA          0.828  8.414      7
SUSAN          0.794  9.209      8
MARGARET       0.768  9.976      9
DOROTHY        0.727 10.703     10

JAMES          3.318  3.318      1
JOHN           3.271  6.589      2
ROBERT         3.143  9.732      3
MICHAEL        2.629 12.361      4
WILLIAM        2.451 14.812      5
DAVID          2.363 17.176      6
RICHARD        1.703 18.878      7
CHARLES        1.523 20.401      8
JOSEPH         1.404 21.805      9
THOMAS         1.380 23.185     10
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3 Responses to “First names – more variety for Girls”

  1. Aaron Gussman Says:

    I was going to argue that it’s not so much that parents seek variety in naming girls but rather that there is a pervasive cultural source for boys names in the bible. Both new and old testaments are mostly about males and a lot of parents will either be religious or at the very least exposed to it through cultural osmosis. However, the fact that only 4 of the top 10 boy names are biblical undermines this.

  2. geonames Says:

    This is a good point, Aaron. I agree with you that it may have a religious or cultural reason. It would be interesting to compare these numbers with other countries and cultures.

    I found some numbers for France, which show a similar pattern with more names for girls :
    http://www.insee.fr/fr/insee_regions/Limousin/publi/e_prenoms-2005.html

    The exact numbers, however, are too expensive : http://www.webcommerce.insee.fr/Catalogue/descriptif_produit.asp?Code%5FProduit=PRENVIV03&TABLE=&ID=&Choix=#


  3. [...] post on that here, which notes, “it [natural language geocoder] needs 4200 first names for girls to cover 90% of [...]


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