What Is a Popular Baby Name? (Hint: There Are Fewer Than You Think.)

Apr 10th 2013


Today, I'm going to try to answer a fundamental question about baby names -- a question that parents care deeply about but never ask.

What IS a popular name?

When a restaurant or a vacation destination is described as "popular," that's usually considered a compliment. A popular spot is an attractive and crowd-pleasing choice. Yet in the world of baby names, "popular" has become the least popular designation around. I regularly hear from parents-to-be, anxious that the names they love are poised to become "popular."

Have you ever wondered what that actually means? When does a name qualify as popular (or "TOO popular"?) Is there a dividing line? And if you don't know what a popular name is, how can you avoid it?

National name rankings are easy to find, but what's needed is a functional definition: Will your child have classmates by the same name? Will other parents find your name choice fresh and intriguing, or say "Oh, I have two different nieces with that name!" That functional popularity is what most of us really care about, rather than knowing that 12 other boys' names rank above Elijah.

Functional popularity is tricky to pin down, since it's shaped by two slippery factors.

1. The community multipler. The names Adam, Jaxon and  Jesús are close in frequency nationwide, but in a given community or social set their usage levels are likely to be very different.

2. The psychological multiplier. You notice every time there's another Caroline in your daughter's class, team or playgroup. The episodes stick in your mind and pile up. But the routine absence of another Caroline doesn't register at all. The result is that we perceive name doppelgängers as much more common than they really are.

Despite these challenges, we can make a rough translation of national popularity charts into functional terms. The number of names that qualify as functionally popular may surprise you.

I've divided names into six popularity levels based on current U.S. name usage. If you tend to share tastes with your friends and neighbors, you may want to adjust for the community multiplier. Choose from the name sets one or two levels below your popularity comfort threshold. If meeting another kid with your child's name seriously bugs you, do the same for the psychological multiplier. And if you're focused on unfamiliar names rather than just currently uncommon ones, try applying these thresholds to the historical peak ranks on the NameVoyager.

Super-Popular Names: One in Every Classroom
(1 out of every 25 babies born)
Good news! NO names are that popular. Not even close. Even the most popular name in America is given to just one out of every 177 babies. The #1 name in your home state may approach 1 out of every 100 babies.

Very Popular Names: One in Every School
(1 out of every 100-1,000 babies born)
This functional level corresponds roughly to today's top 100 boys' and girls' names. If your favorite name is out of the top 100, it's not "very popular." Surprisingly, this applies to your state's top 100, too; the 100 top names for boys and girls in your state are given to about one of every 1,000 babies.

Popular: You Wouldn't Be Surprised to Meet One
(1 out of every 1,001-5,000 babies born)
The name Gregory has fallen far from its peak, but you wouldn't bat an eyelash at a young Greg. You've probably never met a Kyla, but that name wouldn't surprise you either. And even if the name Angelo isn't common in your community, you know there are plenty of Angelos out there. These are the names ranked in the #101-400 range.

Not Especially Popular: Oh Yeah, That Name
(1 out of every 5,001-10,000 babies born)
There are tons of babies named Jackson and half-tons named Jaxon, so it figures there would be some Jaxens. And while the name Linda has dropped off the trend radar, it figures that it hasn't disappeared completely. Some of the names in the #401-700 range may be genuine surprises (Sincere for a boy, and Phoenix for a girl?), but most will look familiar in one way or another.

Uncommon: Huh, That's an Interesting One
(1 out of 10,001-20,000 babies born)
Old Testament names and presidential names are hot, but Hezekiah and Nixon? When's the last time you met a baby Ernest, let alone an Elvis? And how did they spell that, Charleigh? Add in some names that may be well-known within a particular ethnic group but unfamiliar outside of it (Belén, Vihaan) and the names ranked #701-1,000 bring you to the realm of the unexpected.

And Then There's...
...everything else. Think about it: we reached the level of genuinely unexpected names without even leaving the top 1,000 lists. More than a quarter of baby names chosen today lie beyond.

If you fall in love with a name that's almost never heard, that should give you confidence to follow your heart. But if you gave up on the name Calla because a ranking of #1,911 seemed too common for your unique and precious child, I'd strongly suggest you reconsider. When a frequency of 1 occurrence per 39,000 babies born overrides all the other qualities you look for in a name, you may be putting too high a premium on uniqueness -- or losing sight of what "popular" really means.

 

p.s. Do you have an ear for name trends? Test your savvy: guess the fastest rising and falling names in the annual Baby Name Pool by April 15! 

Comments

1
April 10, 2013 10:29 PM

I think many parents (particularly mothers) today worry about the "Jennifer effect". They remember being one of six Jennifers in seventh grade (out of 80 kids) and want to avoid that at any cost for their children. My suggestion is to choose a school that's either very ethnically diverse, thereby ensuring a wide variety of names, or choosing one that is filled with children who are different from your child. That way today's little Jennifer will be surrounded by Zains, Jaxons, Nyasias, and Charlottes. Sadly, most American schools today are becoming more and more homogeneous, even as our naming choices become more diverse.

2
April 11, 2013 8:53 AM

Okay so this post feels a bit misleading and I'm thinking it's because baby naming is so local.  My daugther Clare was born in 2003 and there is a Claire/Clare/Clair in each of the four 3rd grade classes in her school.  Nationwide Claire ranked at #92 in 2003, Clare was in the 600s, and Clair didn't rank.  (A site that combines spellings for all names put Claire/Clare at #96).  So there should be only 1 in her whole school, not 4 in 3rd grade!  (It doesn't bother me, but my daughter says it's confusing).  Digging deeper, I do see that for our state though Claire ranked at #57 in 2003 and #54 the next year.  I have a feeling county-by-county data would have Claire even higher in my neighborhood.   And as Elizabeth T. was pointing out my daughter's school is very homogeneous and I'm sure that compounds the situation.

3
April 11, 2013 12:36 AM

Interesting post.........  It is hard to know how the stats play out locally. I know that looking at birth announcements can help (although it doesn't cover all births) and once you have kids you get a feeling of what names other parents are using in your area as you start mixing with a lot more kids.

Even if you pick a name that is relatively unpopular you can still come across other kids with the same name. My daughters name is fairly low in the popularity rankings and is probably in the 'Uncommon' category above (although we don't have state or national stats below the top 100 here so it's hard to tell for sure), and people love to point out when they have heard of another child with the same name. We knew she wasn't going to be the only kid with that name out there, and the odd one or two others doesn't bother me at all, I love the name. I just don't want there being lots of others with the same name around.  

Even if you manage to pick a name not locally popular, you can still come across another one or two of the same name just by sheer coincidence. Conversely we have friends who have kids called Jacob and Emma, who have never had to share a class with another kid with the same name despite having extremely popular names for their birth year.

I agree with Elizabeth T, that I grew up with a name that was very popular for my generation and I was always at least one of 5 in my class with that name. I often even had the same surname initial as others sharing my name. It really bothered me, but I knew that even if I picked a top 10 name for my children they are unlikely to have the same issue I did.

 

 

4
April 11, 2013 7:14 AM

It's interesting, a lot of the people I've spoken to about this post say the same thing: "not in my neighborhood! There's ALWAYS another 'yourchild'snamegoeshere' in each class!"

Statistically, that will cleary happen at times. Chance will bring you clusters of Charlottes or Aidans in a particular grade. But I'll bet that even in homogeneous communities of taste, if you actually run the numbers, name choices are much more diverse than your eyes are telling you. For instance, even in the most homogeneous states in the country like Maine, the #1 names represent less than 1% of the population. And when my kids insisted that their schools were positively overrun by a particular name, I asked them to count up the examples vs. the school population. It turned out that what that meant was all 3 of the kids by that name in a 1,000-student middle school had been in their classes this year.

I suspect the real story here is that the psychological "multiplier" is HUGE. Massive. Heck, even Jennifer never really matched the hype: http://www.babynamewizard.com/archives/2006/2/fear-of-jennifer

5
April 11, 2013 12:33 PM

Wow, it's even more remarkable then that there were 4 Madeleines out of 18 total kids in my daughter's daycare infant rooms!  The daycare is at hubby's work, so parents of these Maddies are all engineers, highly educated/skilled folks.  However, my sweet Calliope is in a class all by herself!

6
By CGDH
April 11, 2013 12:50 PM

I think psychological multiplier also needs to include a trend factor. As in, wow, "I've never met a Penelope before, but I've heard of three in the past year!" A major increase in the visibility of a previously uncommon name can make it seem much more popular than it is.

I think the community/neighborhood thing is real, though, and in a way that is hard to see in national and state-level data. This is especially true within language and ethnic minorities. According to the levels you have identified, my daughter's name (Amalia, ranked #992 nationally) should occur once in every 10,000-20,000 kids. But I live in a heavily Portuguese-Brazilian naighborhood and there are 3 Amalias among fewer than 500 kids at her school.

7
April 11, 2013 1:02 PM

There is also the question of Enduring popularity.

For example, I can name 8 real life children named Grace and at least that many called Sophie, off the top of my head. Now, they are a mix of ages, and it's quite possible that each is alone in her class, but there is only a brief window of time when one is grouped strictly by age.

So, if your concern is your child being one of many in her class, it's probably unfounded, But if you're looking for a moniker that will be unique through out her life, I would think you might want to steer clear of one that has been a top choice for many years running. Does that make sense?

My boys have quite popular names, but we only rarely meet another child with the same name, and they've yet to have a duplicate in a class.

The other issue, though, is randomness. One year my son's preschool class of 14 had two girls called Helena (different spellings), two Kyras (different spellings), and two Mayas (different spelling)! What are the odds??

8
April 11, 2013 1:06 PM

Laura,

I also wanted to ask if you've ever done a post looking at urban/suburban/rural names.

I know when the red/blue states are broken down along these lines, it usually turns out that the difference is really in terms of whether you live in a city or the country-with suburban areas often being sort of purple.

I have a theory that rural parts of blue states have naming patterns more similar to red states.

My evidence is purely anecdotal-my sister lives in an upper crusty area near Seattle, and their boys' playmates have names like Oliver and Charlotte, but I'm in a middle class, blue collar 'burb an hour away where it's the land of Jaxon and Cadence.

9
April 11, 2013 1:40 PM

I've definitely seen some hyper local multiplying of names. For example, taught a Hebrew school class in a liberal suburban area where 8/10  10 year old boys were named Jacob. 

10
April 11, 2013 3:05 PM

Heh, the name Kyla must be slightly more popular in my neck of the woods, since I know three all in my town - a coworker, and old classmate, and my aunt. It's always weird to see something used as an example that goes against your personal experience with it!

11
April 11, 2013 3:59 PM

Great article -- however, if you have a common last name, you're even more burdened as a parent with picking a first name that isn't "too popular". My husband wound up with the #1 first AND last name for the year he was born (not sure what his parents were thinking!). Sharing a classroom or office with someone who shares your full name (and yes, both of these have happened to him) can be confusing for everyone. This has made me downright paranoid when it comes to selection of names for our children!

12
April 11, 2013 4:51 PM

queenravin -- yeah, I bet there's a lot of super, super local trends. For example, I used to live in a primarily Italian-American neighborhood (next to the neighborhood I live in now) It contained a mix of blue-collar workers and professionals like nurses, teachers, retail managers, etc. and the kids there are named things like Maria and Rocco.  But name data isn't reported on that level, I don't think -- and city, county, or state level data isn't going to show that name trend.  Sure, averaged out over the whole city, there might be, say, 1 Rocco per school -- but almost all the Roccos in my city are going to go to 1 of only 3 elementary schools.  So what you actually get is 20 elementary schools with no Roccos at all, and then a Rocco every grade or so in the 3 schools with large Italian-American populations. 

13
April 11, 2013 9:39 PM

It's the old Ethel Mae Postulate popping back up. Laura, do you think you could pitch Ethel Mae to the scriptwriters of the Big Bang Theory? We name geeks could contribute all sorts of hilarious hijinks for the gang!

14
By moll
April 12, 2013 9:42 AM

JnHsmom, your point about names that have been popular for years running is one I've thought about, too. My own name has been ranked around number 100 for most of my life - it was maybe 110ish when I was born, has made it to the 80s now, but typically around 100. That means that while it was never near a top 10 name, there are more people with the same name as me as the other girls with names in the 100s when I was born, whose names rose and faded within a matter of years.

There's a flip side, though. The plus of choosing a name with relative rank-stability is that it isn't as date-stamped. Brandi was a lot more popular than Molly in the 80s, but there have probably been more Mollys overall since then due to the stable rank - but therefore, Brandi reads more as an 80s name. Of course, this is without getting into how names are less common at any given ranking today than they used to be, because of increased name diversity and all that...

15
April 12, 2013 11:46 AM

Part of the discrepancy between reality and perception is the increasing use of spelling as a distinguishing feature.

On the soccer field Aaden, Aidan and Aiden all sound the same, but their parents named them with a given spelling to be distinct/unique.  So the names seem more unique when written or in name voyager.

Also, parents give different names to get a specific nickname: think of all the Ellas and Maddys out there.  They could be Eleanor, Helen, Elizabeth, Ella, Ellen. .....Maddy could be Madeline, Madison etc.  The nicknames blend in a way the names do not.

In addition to hyper-local, there's the age of the child/parent combination to consider.  All those newborn parents are hanging out together, and not with the parents of 15 year olds.  I never knew an Aidan in person prior to having kids.  By the time I had my second child (four years later) I was sick to death of the name.  I'd bet some of these trends follow age of parent as well.

16
April 12, 2013 9:03 PM

Oh, I'm with you.

I think one of the big reasons I like, "Classic," names is that even the most popular ones don't have that date stamped quality.

I have two sets of 2nd cousins L*sa and A*ngela and K*te and El*zabeth. All four were born within the same 5 year span, but only with the first two could you make a reasonable guess as to the years!

17
April 13, 2013 12:54 AM

Megan W, I am so with you on the spelling and nickname issues. I would also add rhyming. All the Aidan/Jayden/Braydens blend together as do the Maddy/Addy (noting that Addy can be Adeline or Addison) and Riley/Kylie/Miley types. The parents might have put a lot of thought into the spelling and such, but the names are used in spoken form more than written/typed for young kids, so Bailey and Bayleigh are the exact same.

 In Canada, no federal agency keeps track of the names, and there are only provinicial-level reporting. (And, of course, the provinces range from some are smaller than a lot of cities to Ontario and Quebec that have about 8-million people.) But a Canadian national anglophone parenting magazine, "Today's Parent," does what it can to combine the stats into a national list. One feature they do differently than SSN is that they combine different spellings, so that each female Riley, Rylee, and Ryleigh is counted as the same name, which might give parents a more realistic view of how popular the name is and the homophonic odds of a soundalike name.

 

Speaking of which, I could use some help, if anyone has the time. I have a Raphael, Felix, and Xavier, names chosen because speakers of English, French, and Spanish would all recognize and feel comfortable saying, albeit giving Xavier four different spins (the incorrect English "Eggzavier," as Ohio journalists mock people in print when they mispronounce the university's name, the proper English "Zavier," the French "Zahv-yay," and the Spanish "hav-ee-air"). The kids are binational as well as biracial, and I want their names to flow in any of their likely surroundings. They also coincidentally are Top 20 names in Quebec, lol. 

Now for #4. Having three boys, I have a couple of girl names I loved and never got to use. But it's been quite a while, and I am not sure I am still in love with them. I am open to your suggestions for something that fits harmoniously with the group and preferably goes nicely with Jane or Jeanne (family names) for a middle name.

As for a boy, many names fit the above criteria but are too common or Old Testament-y (David, Benjamin), the French and Spanish versions are too different from each other (Julian/Julio), or I just don't like them. I found one that has been on the relatively short list the last two rounds of baby naming, has the same spelling in all three languages, and the same pronunciation in Spanish and French: Hugo. I'd rejected it before for seeming too offbeat/quirky, but now I am really succumbing to it. (Yes, the Scorcese family film of the same name and rediscovering "Les Miserables" have helped put the name front and center in my head again.) My only issues are 1) not as religious as the other three (we're Catholic), 2) I'm having trouble finding the perfect middle name (they all begin with J, per my matrilineal family tradition, and we've already burned through three!), altohugh I will note that middle names are much more open about other qualities as long as they begin with the correct letter, and 3) I'm concerned it doesn't sound as good with our surname, which begins with H, too, like Hugo Hendrick (not our real surname). Thoughts? Other suggestions?

18
April 13, 2013 12:52 PM

I'd suggest posting in the Forums. Your question will get seen much more and receive more responses than it will here :) And since you're Catholic and have used names popular in Quebec in the past, did you know that our 2012 data are out? You might see something else on there that you like. The first names that came to my mind were Gabriel (similar ending too close?), Sebastian, Lucas, and Leo - based on language, not religion, as I have much less basis for that evaluation.

Oh, and have you tried Nymbler? You enter names that you like and it suggests others. For what it's worth, I actually like Hugo with your other kids' names.

(Also, X-zavier is an acceptable pronunciation of Xavier. Egg, perhaps less so, but still, Zavier is not the only proper way to say it in English. In Quebec, I always hear it said with the X first.)

19
April 13, 2013 2:12 PM

Thanks for the reply, Karyn. So are the new-to-me forums the reason Laura's wonderful posts get so many fewer comments these days? I kind of miss paging through a hundred comments.

Yes, one archangel is sufficient, although I do like Gabriel. I chose Raphael in part because Gabriel is a bit too common, at least where I am.

I definitely experience those microcosms of names others have mentioned in my town, with certain neighborhoods (and thus their local school) having distinct name groupings that a larger city-wide data set might not convey. For example, to the best of my knowledge, my Felix is the only one in our current elementary school, but was one of four at our previous elementary school in a different part of the same city. What's more, the other ones were all within 1-2 years of my Felix's age. Given the commonality of split classes, he would have had a fair chance of being Felix H. in his class at some point in that previous school.

I have tried Nymbler and such, but there is some sort of flavor or taste issue that I feel it misses for me. It definitely stirs up ideas, though, and sometimes that has led to associations that have been fruitful.

I did not know the 2012 list was already out. I was there just a couple of weeks ago looking up Hugo, the new #59. I find the list is either tainted with anglo names I have no interest in (#19 Justin, #42 Ethan) or hardcore French (meaning not really used by Eng or Span folks, like #32 Etienne, #82 Guillaume). It's definitely a list that makes you wonder about the distribution of the names, like thinking of anglophones on the Quebec side of the Ottawa region and anglophone parts of Montreal, along with possible Jewish pockets of some of the names on the list, Latino (#67 Rafael vs. #10 Raphael, the reverse of their relative ranks in the US), or Italian (#99 Enzo). How many of those 76 new Enzos might attend the same church or school in a province of millions?

20
April 13, 2013 2:42 PM

For those who like looking over international name rankings, the Quebec list is also fun because compound names like "Jean-Luc" are considered as distinct and there are a handful that still manage to rank in the Top 100, like Lily-Rose (#63, 130 girls) and Lea-Rose (#80, 103 girls) and Charles-Antoine (#85, 94 boys), reminding me of the SS's Twin lists, when you see dozens of parents named their girl-girl twins London and Paris. Also because you can easily access the complete list, revealing hundreds of compound names and the ethnic diversity of the province. With 50 names listed per page, the complete list of boy names run out on page 159--while the girls continue on for almost an additional 30 pages, or 6000 names. Gotta wonder about the one XXXXXXXALANIQ O'OKA listed....

http://www.rrq.gouv.qc.ca/Interactif/PR2I121_Prenoms/PR2I121_Prenoms/PR2SPrenoms.aspx?langue=en

 

OK, no more thread hijack!

21
April 14, 2013 2:43 PM

AJwith3boys- I love the names you have chosen. We've sometimes referred to these kinds of names as 'pan-European' on this blog.The boy's name that came to mind was Nicolas- any good?  I also second Lucas and Sebastian. I would also suggest Marius and Matthias as possibilities, also Roman, Valentin, Max, Elias, Daniel.

Girls' names are harder. Maybe Katia, certainly Lea, Laura, Matilda, Flora, Elisa, Dora, Nina, Clara, Beatrice/Beatriz, Alicia could work in all three languages (i.e. although not particularly French, the French would be able to handle them).

22
By KO
April 14, 2013 4:39 PM

Francis.  Boom!  You're welcome. ;)

23
By KO
April 14, 2013 4:42 PM

I agree. Namenerds has spreadsheets of relative popularity after collapsing homophonic names for spelling for both boys and girls. I'd like to see this article use that data and see how things shake out. 

24
April 14, 2013 8:45 PM

I really wanted to avoid the multiplier effect. I was born in 1978 and never met another Olivia until I was in my late 20s, but in the last few years it seems at least once a week I hear Olivia (or Livi or Liv) called out in public to a little girl. A co-worker or client would has told me he/she has a granddaughter or niece named Olivia so often that I feel like saying, "Of course you do. Everybody does." So, even though that name may not be statistically popular, the appearance of it being popular is annoying.

25
April 15, 2013 5:43 PM

What about Raoul/Raul? I love the name but thought it would be odd for my Anglo-American boys... And Beatrice/Beatriz or Louise/Luisa for a girl?

26
April 16, 2013 1:25 PM

I totally agree. As a Catholic, I know a lot of Matthews, Johns, John Pauls, Marys, Catherine/Katherines, and Theresa/Teresas, but the percentages are much higher than the name lists would have you think, even state by state. Heck, I know 2 baby Giannas and Gemmas and Lucys born in the past year or so (it was the year of the girl), all to Catholics, in addition to the Harpers and Jacks.

27
April 16, 2013 4:12 PM

I once taught a class with six Jennifers, so I have tried hard to avoid giving my kids popular names. Choosing a name for my last child was difficult because I'd had my heart set on Abigail for a long time, and apparently so had every other parent! We were seeing Abigails (of various spellings) coming and going. We didn't want our daughter to think her name was "Abigail X" all through grade school, so we chose a different name. It felt like something of a Hobson's choice, though. Of course we love our new baby so much that the name we chose for her is more dear to us than Abigail was.

28
April 16, 2013 5:25 PM

I do know a baby Ernest! He's under a year! I know it doesn't change the overall statistics but I was excited to see the name in your post. Then again, we all looked at each other and said, "Ernest? Ernest? Really?"

29
April 17, 2013 8:49 AM

The local multiplier effect really is huge.  But it makes sense.  If you meet even one child with a name, in your world, the name moves up one step in the popularity categories.  Most people who meet my Linnea for the first time say, "Huh?  Oh, that's pretty!"  But now each of those people will say, "Oh, I knew another girl named Linnea!" for every Linnea they meet from here on out.

30
April 21, 2013 10:37 PM

While individual names are less common, I have noticed that popular names frequently share characteristics, especially sounds.  The name Brady isn't extremely popular, but if he's in a classroom with a Braden, a Brayden, a Brody, a Braelyn, a Bailey and a Grady, there's still a sense of Brady being everywhere.  And as someone else mentioned, a lot of popular names share an even more popular diminutive, which some parents will use on its own.  I think it's because parents want a child's name to be different, but not too different.  If they see Emily too often, they switch to Emma.  See Emma too often, they try Emmeline or Emerson.  Either way, you get a lot of Emmies.  I've seen classrooms where no actual given name was repeated, but multiple children shared a diminutive, such as Max, Maximilian, Maxwell and Maxim - all called Max.  Another classroom had six children, boys and girls, all called Alex. 

 

The community multiplier is a big one.  Depending on culture, location, socioeconomic status and other such factors, popular names vary a lot.  A name may not be popular on a national level, but among certain groups, it can seem almost ubiquitous.  I've spoken with parents who just don't believe names like Nevaeh and Jaden can be as popular as they are, because they're never seen one, but will wonder why everyone else around them seems to love the exact same names.  They may rarely see a Jaxon, but because they're surrounded by other upper middle class 40ish urban Reformist Jews, they can name ten Avis easily. 

31
April 22, 2013 12:01 PM

Probability can be very surprising sometimes. Even if assuming totally random distribution of names, a name with a 1 in 100 occurrence has the following odds for groups of 25: 

  • No one with the name: 77.8%
  • Only one person with the name: 19.6%
  • More than one person with the name : 2.6%

 Once you consider factors such popularity within communities, self selection by sex, and the tendency to remember when things occur and not when things don't occur, one can see how popular names are really popular. 

32
May 6, 2013 5:07 PM

Really interesting post. I think that my children won't be likely to share names with kids in their classes at school because of a number of reasons. We live in a really ethnically & socio-economically diverse neighbourhood, for one. Many kids have names that reflect their ethnic background, but there are also many who have quite non-traditional names like Cedar, Sequoia, etc. But also because I chose a name for my son that will likely never get onto any of the charts at all: Linnaeus. I am still working on a name for my daughter (due in September), but I'm aiming for something just as unique.

33
May 6, 2013 5:12 PM

What bob90210 said: probability doesn't work the way you think it works.

The classic formulation of this is the birthday problem. With 365 days in a year, intuition says that you need to get a group of upwards of 300 people together before you have a reasonable chance of shared birthdays, but intuition is totally wrong. You only need 57 people to get a 99% probability that two of them will share a birthday.

(The probability of someone sharing your birthday is, indeed, much lower, and matches intuition much better.)

34
By CGDH
May 10, 2013 8:33 AM

"Even the most popular name in America is given to just one out of every 177 babies. The #1 name in your home state may approach 1 out of every 100 babies."

I think this misses something important: aggregated spellings. Take a name like Aiden. In 2011, there were slightly more than 15,000 Aidens born in the US (about .76% of total male births). But if you add in the Aidans, Aydenns, Aydans, etc., there were more than 30,000. That pushes the % of total births up past 1.5%. That means there's one Aiden for every 65 boys, not every 177 boys. Relying too much on the SSA rankings without taking alternate spellings into account can distort this sort of analysis, making names seem less popular than they are.

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January 5, 2014 9:17 AM

The daycare is at hubby's work, so parents of these Maddies are all engineers, highly educated/skilled folks.  However, my sweet Calliope is in a class all by herself.

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January 8, 2014 6:35 AM

I was always at least one of 5 in my class with that name. I often even had the same surname initial as others sharing my name. It really bothered me, but I knew that even if I picked a top 10 name for my children they are unlikely to have the same issue I did.

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