Did you hear the new Top 100 Names? Not really.
Have you seen the headlines? Or maybe you heard the news on tv, or the radio: The Top 100 Baby Names of 2004!
One small problem: that information just isn't available. The Social Security Administration doesn't release its official figures until Spring '05. So what are hundreds of media outlets reporting on?
A Babycenter.com press release.
Give credit to the clever folks at Babycenter.com, a parenting web site owned by Johnson & Johnson. They looked at their many users, ready to answer polls and post birth announcements, and created an annual "BabyCenter Baby Names List." Then they sent out a press release announcing their top names.
What's wrong with this? Not a thing, and The Baby Name Wizard would doubtless do the same if she could get away with it. The problem is the press, large and small, happily reported these lists as "the most popular baby names in America in 2004." Despite the clear-cut, in-your-face evidence that Babycenter's lists are not a snapshot of America's babies. Listen up, reporters:
There are no Spanish names on the list.
In 2003, America's real top 100 boys' names included:
Alejandro, Antonio, Carlos, Diego, Jesus, José, Juan, Luis, and Miguel.
Not a one made Babycenter's list, in 2003 or 2004.
Whatever Babycenter is reporting on, it isn't America's babies. Their press release gives no clue where the names came from or how they were gathered. At best, they're names chosen by a self-selected sample of the kind of people who like Babycenter. (And I count myself among those, by the way.) We know it's a radically skewed sample, excluding Latino parents among others. At worst, we don't know that the babies they're reporting on even exist, since anyone can post to a public web site...any number of times.
It's a small problem in the grand scheme of things. But here at Baby Name Wizard Central, where name data is our bread and butter, we shed a silent tear for the parents basing their name choices on what they think is real data, because the news told them so.