The Social Security Administration has announced the most popular names in each state. Without further ado, here are the top names from coast to coast (a brief analysis is below):
|Most Popular Girls' Names by State, 2013|
|Dist. of Columbia||Charlotte||Sofia||Olivia|
|Most Popular Boys' Names by State, 2013|
|Dist. of Columbia||William||Alexander||Henry|
The top girl's names are remarkably consistent across the United States. Five names — Emma, Sophia, Olivia, Ava and Isabella — dominate the landscape. Emma is the single most agreed-on name, ranking among the top 3 in an impressive 47 states. The most notable regional hit is Harper, a top-3 name in a cluster of states from Montana to Iowa.
The top boys' names show much greater regional variety. In fact, the #1 boys' name in the country, Noah, cracks the top 3 in only 18 states. The most agreed-on names are Liam and Mason, ranking top 3 in 33 states a piece. In a further sign of Liam's appeal, 12 states made both Liam and its traditional source name William top-3 choices. (More on that phenomenon soon!)
Other local highlights: Benjamin in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Wyatt in Idaho and Wyoming; Michael in Delaware, New Jersey and New York.
More from the most popular names stats:
How tricky is the Baby Name Pool competition? Ponder this:
The single best rising name prediction in this year's pool (Jase) rode the repeated success of a name that was one of the top risers the previous year.
The single best falling-name prediction (Litzy) rode the demise of a name that was one of the top risers the previous year.
Yes, every pick is chancy, and it takes a full roster of strong choices to win it all. The scoring formula is designed to make sure all six predictions count, so a single lucky strike can't carry a weak ballot. This year's top scorers took different approaches to their predictions, but both showed a great instinct for American names and culture.
Meet The Champion
Please join me in congratulating Alyssa T., age 35, an accountant from New Hampshire. All six of Alyssa's ballot choices moved strongly in the direction she predicted, including three choices ranked among the top five rising or falling names for girls. Her strategy for identifying breakthrough names, in her own words:
"My three choices for fastest rising names have all been recently used by celebrities: Harper (Neil Patrick Harris, the Beckhams, and others), Penelope (Tina Fey, one of the Kardashians), and Olive (Drew Barrymore). In addition, all of them seemed to have been rising in recent years."
For her falling predictions, Alyssa had a unique perspective:
"I picked my own name," she explained, "because I've noticed it falling the past couple of years and expected it to keep dropping." Her other falling picks were Ashley, which she felt would follow Alyssa's path, and Miley, after a year of negative publicity for singer Miley Cyrus.
It's fitting that Alyssa's own name fueled her ballot, because it also fueled her lifelong interest in names. "In the 80's no one seemed to have ever heard of Alyssa, and people often asked me if my parents made it up. It was also constantly mispronounced and misspelled. I desperately wanted to be named Sara. I felt somewhat vindicated when it became so popular later on."
This year's competition was particularly close, so I'd also like to acknowledge the runner up, Caitlin H., a graduate student from Cambridge, MA.
Whereas Alyssa focused on fashionable names with positive momentum, Caitlin dug into rare names with timely pop-culture hooks. Her top-scoring predictions were Kree (from American Idol contestant Kree Harrison) and Khaleesi (from tv series Game of Thrones). Caitlin's full ballot:
Rising – Kree (F), Khaleesi (F), Damian (M)
Falling – Madison (F), Tyler (M), Hayden (M)
A scholar of Colonial America, Caitlin has a particular interest in the way names reflect our culture.
"I love the way that people express themselves through names. Whether it's Puritans giving their children Old Testament names as they write their own version of Exodus in the colonies, or newly freed slaves re-naming themselves and calling their children after the heroes of the abolitionist movement, the names that people use (and invent) are such a powerful statement of how they see themselves and their place in the world."
Caitlin's love of names and their meanings shows in the names of her own two young children, Molly and Sam. That's short for Amalia and Samaritan, naturally.
"I have a special place in my heart for virtue names," says Caitlin. "We often think of Faith, Hope, Joy, Grace, etc., as feminine names, but in colonial New England it was just as common to bestow virtue names on boys: Waitstill, Fearnot, Comfort, Increase, Rich-Grace, Vigilant, Experience, Return, etc. I love both the boldness of the names and the fact that parents were as creative with boys' names as with girls'."
Congratulations to our top scorers, and thanks to everybody who played. Join us again next Spring!
Why does a name's popularity plummet? This year's fastest-falling names demonstrate three of the top reasons.
A. Past the Tipping Point. Ultra-appealing names can remain popular for decades. Even past their peak, they'll have years of continuing favor. But in this fashion-conscious naming age, there can come a point where parents start to feel a name's decline, sensing that it's behind the times. When that happens, the decline can turn into a dive.
Names past the tipping point this year:
Justin (#1 falling boy, with help from a rocky year for singer Justin Bieber)
Alyssa (#4 falling girl)
Sean (#2 falling boy)
B. One-Year Wonders. A short-term burst of media exposure -- perhaps a headline newsmaker, reality tv contestant, or telenovela heroine -- can send a name shooting up the charts. But unless the name strikes a deep fashion chord, it's likely to fall back to earth almost as quickly.
This year's One-Year Wonders:
Litzy (#1 fastest-falling girl's name; last year's #3 fastest riser)
Perla (#2 falling girl; last year's #23 riser)
Adley (#3 falling girl; last year's #2 riser)
C. Sibling Rivalry. Multiple variations of a name can rise together. Sometimes they continue on in popularity together, but often one version takes control as the others recede. For instance, in the years 2002-3 roughly equal number of boys were named Jaden and Jayden. But Jayden alone continued to soar toward the top of the charts, and is now considered the standard form of the name. Similarly, when a name starts to decline its non-standard spelling variants usually fall first, and fastest.
Names losing sibling rivalries this year:
Masen (#3 falling Boy; Mason declined more slowly)
Bently (#4 falling boy; Bentley declined more slowly)
Sophie (#5 falling girl; Sophia declined only slightly and Sofia rose)
For more on this year's movers and shakers, see:
Fastest-Rising Boys' Names of 2013
Fastest-Rising Girls' Names of 2013
Beyond the top 1,000: Fastest-Rising Rare Names
The 1,000 Top Baby Names of 2013 (with 2012 comparison rankings)