The Most Popular Baby Names in America for 2011

May 14th 2012

The Social Security Administration has released the official rankings of the most popular baby names in America for 2011. The new top 10:

RANK BOYS GIRLS
1  Jacob  Sophia
2  Mason  Isabella
3  William  Emma
4  Jayden  Olivia
5  Noah  Ava
6  Michael  Emily
7  Ethan  Abigail
8  Alexander  Madison
9  Aiden  Mia
10  Daniel  Chloe

The big news is the continuing change at the top of the girls' chart. The rise of Sophia itself isn't a surprise. (Back in January, Time Magazine ran a piece called "Hello. My Name is Sophia" based on my prediction of Sophia as the top name of this year.) But looking more broadly, we've now seen four different #1 names in a five-year period: Isabella (2009-10), Emma (2008) and Emily (2007, the end of a multi-year run.)

That rate of turnover is completely unprecedented for boys or girls. It's another signal that the "fear of Jennifer" -- the worry that a popular name will make your child one of five in her class -- doesn't match today's reality. Jennifer was #1 for 15 years, with a peak popularity more than three times Isabella's. #1 just isn't what it used to be.

On the boy's side, Mason makes one of the biggest jumps to the top in recent memory, all the way from #12 to #2. A tip of the cap to BabyNameWizard.com readers, who made Mason the most-guessed boy's name in the Baby Name Pool.

You'll doubtless hear lots of reports crediting the rise of Mason to the youngest member of the Kardashian clan. My guess is that celebrity influence is overstated. Yes, having a little Mason on tabloid covers in every supermarket in the country makes a difference. But the critical spur to Mason's rise happened 25 years earlier, when the name first appeared in the soap opera "Santa Barbara." The national Mason rate rose ten-fold during the soap's run, and it's been climbing ever since.

And today...take a look at the top boys' names. Three of the top four, Jacob, Mason and Jayden, have the exact same vowel pattern. Then consider that Maci was the fastest-rising girl's name of last year. Boy, was America ever ready for Mason.

I'll continue to analyze the new name data throughout the days to come, here and on Twitter -- follow @BabyNameWizard!

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