September 8, 2015

The Gender Gap: Are Baby Naming Styles Equal Among Boys and Girls?


Awhile back, I was interviewed for an article on naming trends, and the interviewer, Shellie Braeuner, had a fantastic question. She asked me:
Do you see greater benefits or pitfalls for girls with unusual names or boys? Is there a gender gap when it comes to unique names? For example, would a girl named Siobhan fare better or worse than a boy named Plutarch? Or would there be no difference between gender in your opinion?
I thought this was a provocative thing to ask. The question, and my answer, (understandably) didn't end up being used in the finished piece, so I'm taking matters into my own hands.

Thankfully, I don't have to rely on personal opinion when it comes to whether there is a gender gap in naming style. This country's name statistics over the years answer the question for me.

Here's my short answer...

Boys' names have stayed more traditional over the years, while girls' names are more susceptible to trends.


And here's my long answer...

Taking a look at the top five boys' names over the last century reveals Michael, John, and William appear consistently, while the girls' top five reveal zero common contenders through the years. Even though there are plenty of classic girls' names doing well today, they waver more in popularity over time, moving in and out of fashion more quickly.

In the US, Girls' Names Are More Diverse

Get ready for some math. Though there are more boys born in the US each year than girls, the names chosen for girls are repeated a lot less, with a total of 19,067 girls' names reported by the SSA, and only 13,977 names included for boys last year*. That means that parents are choosing from a much smaller pool of names when it comes to boys, while girls' names include a wider variety—by more than 36%!

The diversity in girls' names means that it may feel more socially acceptable for a girl to be named Lilac than a boy to be named Bravery**. On the flip side, announcing your girl's name is Deborah (a beautiful Biblical classic that fell victim to trends) may get more mixed reactions than a boy named Daniel (a Biblical boys' name that has been steadily popular).

I'm speaking in broad generalizations, of course. There are plenty of parents today who are looking for a trendy name for their son, or a more classic name for their daughter. But the numbers reveal that as a country, Americans pair fanciful and fashionable with feminine qualities, while tried-and-true classics strike us as particularly appealing for boys.

Does it matter?

It's important to me that you keep in mind this is a matter of naming stats, and not of any personal opinion. I would be the last person to say that boys' names should be traditional or girls' names should be trendy! Of course, you can be adventurous and creative, or traditional and classic, with your baby's name, no matter their sex or any other circumstance. (I was!)

It all comes down to this: Choose a name that you love and that you think your child can wear proudly, and you can't go wrong.

*This is the number of names given to a minimum of 5 boys or girls in 2014.
**There were 10 baby girls named Lilac and 10 baby boys named Bravery born in 2014.

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