Sunday, June 01, 2014

What Your Name Says About Your Age

There was some smart analysis last week from Nate Silver's 538 blog, which showed how to calculate the median age of a person based on their name:
There are quite a lot of websites devoted to tracking the popularity of American baby names over time. (The data ultimately comes from the Social Security Administration, which records birth names dating back to 1880.) 
But we haven’t seen anyone ask the age of living Americans with a given name. The method for determining the answer is quite simple: All you really need is the SSA’s baby name database and its actuarial tables, which estimate how many people born in a given year are still alive.

They also calculated the "youngest" names, which weren't too surprising. Ava, Isabella, Lily and Sophia had the youngest median age among girls, while Liam, Jayden, Aiden and Mason were the youngest among boys.

It's also clear why the two "oldest" women's names — Gertrude and Mildred — are ranked that way. Unlike with other old-lady names such as Ruby, Pearl and Violet, parents aren't picking Mildred for their babies. (Hello, it has the word "dread" in it.)


This analysis is fascinating, but I've been doing informal age assessments based on names for years.

The other day I encountered a woman of indeterminate age (she could have been anywhere from 35 to 45) and learned her name was Sharon. Mentally, I added 10 years to her age.

Now, I'm a baby-name geek, so maybe other people aren't doing this. But it probably happens on a subconscious level.

So again, this is why I repeat a bit of advice I gave last month:
You’re always better off picking a name that’s rising in popularity. Also, think twice about giving your kid a name that peaked 15 years ago (Lauren or Nicholas). When that child is 25 or 30, you don’t want him or her to be saddled with the name of a middle-aged person.
Life is hard enough without your parents prematurely aging you at birth.