Today’s kids (and later adults) will stand out from classmates. For instance, in the 1950s, the average first-grade class of 30 children would have had at least one boy named James (top name in 1950), while in 2013, six classes will be necessary to find only one Jacob, even though that was the most common boys’ name in 2007.
The researchers suspect the uptick of unusual baby names could be a sign of a change in culture from one that applauded fitting in to today’s emphasis on being unique and standing out. When taken too far, however, this individualism could also lead to narcissism, according to study researcher Jean Twenge, of San Diego State University.
The results come from an analysis of 325 million baby names recorded by the Social Security Administration from 1880 to 2007. The research team figured out the percentage of babies given the most popular name or a name among the 10, 20, or 50 most popular for that year and sex. Since it wasn’t required that people get a social security card until 1937, names before that time may not be random samples of the population, the researchers note.
Results showed parents were less likely to choose those popular names as time went on. For instance, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, about 5 percent of babies were named the top common name, while more recently that dropped to 1 percent.
A list of top-10 baby names by year, and their popularity