Red and Blue Baby Naming: Inauguration 2009 Edition

Jan 20th 2009

Hey, anybody remember the 2004 presidential election? I'll refresh your memory, it looked something like this:

The stark red-blue segregation became a national obsession, with stereotypes flying on both sides. The division between the "two Americas" ran deep.  We could all feel it, and we could feel it widening: a vast culturo-political fissure with total mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides.  A map redividing the country into "United States of Canada" and "Jesusland" was one of the hottest jokes of the year.  There was no hope of bridging the gap...until there was. As soon as Barack Obama started redrawing that electoral map, the red-blue meme passed.  But is it really gone? Or was it ever real to begin with? On this inauguration day, I'd like to revisit the red-blue faceoff through the lens of baby names.

A few years back, I started a project to track down the red-blue divide in name terms. Did blue (liberal) and red (conservative) America actually name their children differently? Yes, they surely did. But how they did was a stunner.  The "bluest" names were traditional, Christian, and single-sex; the "reddest" were newly invented, non-religious and androgynous.  (Try it on the NameMapper: select 2004 and type in Henry, then Rylee.)  In other words, our choices of names -- one of the most candid, heartfelt expressions of our values and dreams -- ran precisely opposite to our supposed values divide.

What did it mean? I went down a long path, reading stats and research on red and blue America.  Along the way, I discovered some surprising facts.  For instance, while Americans felt certain their opinions were diverging, actual opinion surveys showed the country's views converging into an age of uncommon consensus.  The division we saw on the maps and felt in our guts was hard to pin down in the real world.  So maybe the peculiar baby name data could point toward some answers.

If you have some time on your hands, you can check out the full article I wrote on the subject back in 2006. But here's the condensed version of where the names led me.

Let's say you have two groups of women making fashion choices. One opts for timeless classics, simple and a little formal; the other chooses the newest, trendiest, most eye-catching styles that make old fogeys squirm.  What drives the difference? If you had to predict just one variable, the obvious choice is age.  Was it possible that blue state parents were more conservative namers simply because they were older?

Sure enough, in 18 of the 19 states that voted for John Kerry in 2004, first-time mothers were older than the national average.  And the more Democratic the community, the stronger the effect.

Waiting to start a family is part of a self-reinforcing class cycle.  Girls from educated, middle-and upper-class backgrounds are more likely to pursue higher education.  To make the most of their investment in schooling, they'll put off having children until they've gotten their careers under way. When they finally do start families they're more financially secure and can provide good educational opportunities for their own children, starting the cycle anew.

You can see how political factors play into this maternal age cycle.  Higher education, for instance, is a classic predictor of liberalism.  A strict cultural conservatism, meanwhile—rejecting abortion, embracing traditional gender roles—would tend to lead you toward younger parenthood.  A conservative community ends up with young moms and thus young-mom style, a liberal community with old-mom style.

So age-based style is entwined with the old standbys of income and values.  But remember that in the red/blue baby name choices, style and values were in direct opposition.  Going head to head in a decision that parents take very seriously, style beat values by a mile. So perhaps the style-making variable of maternal age plays a bigger role in the cultural divide than we realize.

In fact, if you start with nothing but a maternal age gap, you end up predicting a lot of the behaviors that divide red and blue America -- even seemingly value-driven behaviors.  For instance, red-state residents are more likely to report that they attend worship services weekly.  But when do people go to church most?  When it's time to introduce their children to the faith.  Americans who are married with children are twice as likely to attend church weekly as their single, childless counterparts.  The earlier you have kids, therefore, the more the church becomes part of the fabric of your life.  In a community of young moms, the church naturally becomes central to the community's life.

You can follow this same thread to countless other aspects of personal and community life.  What it adds up to is that the age when you have children isn't just one more variable in the cultural spreadsheet.  It's your life story, and the life story of your community.  A "life story gap" is a recipe for mutual incomprehension.

Now here's the kicker. Remember how America's political and moral judgments turn out to be closer today than ever before, and how the widening divide we perceive is hard to pin down?  Well, the maternal age gap -- the life story gap -- is widening.  In 1970, Arkansas and Mississippi had the youngest first-time mothers in America with an average age of 20.  Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York were oldest with an average of 22, a difference of just two years.  By 2000 those numbers stood at 22 and 27, a difference of five years.  The difference is even bigger at the political and lifestyle extremes.  The percentage of Democratic voters in a state correlates closely with the percentage of all births to mothers over 40, which is growing fast.  The red-blue life story gap grows with it.

So that's what I concluded after tallying up the baby names back in 2006.  Does it still have any relevance in the new political world of 2009?  Here's a little sign that it may.  Barack Obama won all or part of 10 states that John Kerry lost.  Suppose you tried to predict which 10 based on the percentage of the vote Kerry took in each state. You'd get 7 of 10 right.  If instead you predicted based on the average age of first-time mothers in each state...8 out of 10.

I'm a baby namer, not a politician.  I don't have to try to bridge policy divides (thank heavens), but I do encounter plenty of hostility on both sides of the baby-naming divide.  Perhaps thinking about the life story gap can help bring us all a little understanding of one another's choices.  As we look across the chasm, let's all take a moment to envision our own lives as they might have been.  Henry and Margaret's mom, you may be just a simple life circumstance away from Colton and Ashlyn's mom.  Be we red and blue or purple, this nation could use a lot of mutual understanding in the years ahead.


By Michelle (not verified)
January 20, 2009 1:49 PM

Wow! Incredible article - thanks for sharing your insights!

January 20, 2009 1:53 PM

How eloquent and analytical, all at the same time! Laura, articles like this are what keep us coming back!

By SaraJ (not verified)
January 20, 2009 2:00 PM

Very interesting findings and a great post. I'm on the younger side of momhood -- 23 when I had my first -- but was still surprised when I moved to a more urban, northern area and found that 23 was considered "practically a baby yourself!" (But I buck the trend -- my kids have very traditional names.) I'll enjoy thinking over this age-gap idea.

-- SaraJ

By Jane Soon-to-be-Mother-of-Five (not verified)
January 20, 2009 2:08 PM

I actually kind of hate it when this blog gets political. Even so, I can't let this one slide: "Higher education, for instance, is a classic predictor of liberalism." That's just untrue. Whether a person graduated from college is NOT a good predictor of political affiliation. It's true that college students tend to be more liberal, but they become more conservative as they age.

Furthermore, the idea that liberals have certain life-patterns, like late-marriage, strikes me as backwards. It seems more likely that in a place like NYC or Massachusetts both liberalism AND late-marriage are cultural artifacts.

Finally, the correlation between liberalism and late-marriage and the hunch (for there's no evidence, is there?) that late-marriage correlates with naming a baby James over Jaiden... seems like quite a stretch to me. Perhaps, since studies show that conservatives are significantly happier than liberals, and that they give more to charity by every measure (including giving more blood), we can simply assume that happier, more generous people name their babies less traditional names? (Obviously, I'm being sarcastic... but that theory is just as good as Laura's.)

Can we get back to the baby names now?

January 20, 2009 2:33 PM

Just an extra note on what led me to focus on parental age to begin with...

When I was first researching the article, I put out a call for mothers of children with the "reddest" and "bluest" names to answer some questions about how and why they chose the names, and what qualities they valued in a name. Their answers were identical.

Whether you named your daughter Rylee or Margaret, you did it because that's a "strong" name. You're equally likely to report valuing names that are "traditional," "easy to spell," you name it. There was only one big difference between the two groups: age.

Also, in response to Jane on the link between education and political philosophy, here's one recent study:

January 20, 2009 2:51 PM

I think politics are one of the things that makes names matter. These kinds of ties are what make names and naming so interesting to me--that they reflect more than whims and styles. (Although I also like the argument that style is political and cultural and is not just a whim.)

January 20, 2009 3:21 PM

I am going to have to disagree just slighty with Jane. Although I dislike politics in general as opposed to other subjects, I always love when Laura starts analyzing names based on whatever criteria she chooses. Saying older mothers name their children more traditional names, or women that went to college name their babies more hipster names, or women that wear makeup more often let their husbands name their babies, or whatever, is absolutely fascinating to me. (Of course I was being a little silly with the analogies but I'm sure you understand).

I love that this board is so many different things. It is conversation for mothers new and old. It is a great source of inspiration for naming ideas even for those w/o a child in their future. It is an analysis of current naming trends. It is support for those looking for opinions regarding names. It is a community of different people with different ideas regarding all those aspects of naming. It is fun. Don't stop any of it Laura!

By lizriz (not verified)
January 20, 2009 3:27 PM

As a blogger, I just wanted to comment on this: "I actually kind of hate it when this blog gets political."

I think it is the very definition of blogging that a blog represents first and foremost the person or people behind it, and people are multi-faceted. All blogs, even those that tend towards single subject, are precisely the place for any and all topics every once in while. I think it's to be expected, and I think it's wonderful.

Just wanted to offer a counterpoint on that. :)

Interesting post!

January 20, 2009 3:34 PM

Reposted from last post just in case:

c.Elizabeth- Tree names, what an interesting question! Of your friend's ideas I like Rowen Eldred the best by far. I see no reason to repeat the Ash sound since there are lots of other good options. I also don't really like Oak... it just sounds like a tree to me, not a poetic name. If it must be used I think Oakley nn Oak is better. Of the other suggestions I second:


I've *ed my faves. Do give us updates I think this is neat!

January 20, 2009 3:51 PM

Laura- Fascinating post!! The age of motherhood is a very interesting way to sum up a whole bunch of factors that effect babynaming. This doesn't mean it's the only factor, but it represents a whole bunch of issues as you state.

I am going to be the stereotypical, northeastern, college-educated, later mother, traditional babynamer identified above. I can be pretty sure that I won't be able to become a mother until earliest 28 (which is fine with me and earlier than my mother who had her children at 34 and 38 in the 80's). The age my mother had me isn't a huge factor, but it is a part of the community I am used to...

January 20, 2009 4:53 PM

The personal IS the political!

Very thought-provoking post, Laura. As a "blue state namer," I saw a bit of myself in this post. You were very careful not to make any socio-economic status judgments, which is quite remarkable and admirable!

I confess, I breathed a small sigh of relief that my son's name was NOT among those referenced as red state names. (Note to self: don't recommend the name Rylee!)

For anyone interested in learning more about the variety of attributes that correlate with maternal age, I suggest the "Freakonomics" chapter on children of mothers who were at least 30 years old when their first child was born.

By hyz
January 20, 2009 4:39 PM

Fascinating post with some intriguing theories--thanks, Laura!

By Amy3
January 20, 2009 5:08 PM

Fascinating, Laura! My own personal experience (blue state namer) juxtaposed with those of many of my family members (red state namers) bears this out. I, too, think all the many variables that affect people's choices of names are worthy of exploration on this blog. I think you did a wonderful job of treading lightly through a landscape that can provoke intense reactions and staying focused on naming itself. Well done!

January 20, 2009 5:39 PM

Does the age of fathers have an affect as well? I assume that most first-time fathers are typically a year or two older than first-time mothers, but that may be a faulty assumption. I guess there's no way to parse out how the naming happens (how each parent influences the name eventually chosen), so perhaps just using the age of the mother covers this.

Back to the list of Cornish names from the last post: thanks, Eo! I enjoyed it tremendously. Most of them sounded zippy and fresh to my American ears. Do you know of any Manx names as well?

January 20, 2009 5:42 PM

Local baby alert:
Jadiel, Armanhi, Chezzarae, Pashonce(g), Willow
(g), Campbell(g). I don't know any of these people or the ethnicities of their families but none of these are really my style.

By Qwen (not verified)
January 20, 2009 5:53 PM

I love this site and, as usual, your post is intriguing and thought-provoking. Thanks for the no nonsense breakdown of red and blue on this momentous ocassion - when, hopefully, our nation is leaning more toward purple than ever.

By GUEST (not verified)
January 20, 2009 6:47 PM

I suppose all of the new babies listed in an above post (Jadiel, Armanhi, Chezzarae, Pashonce, Willow, and Campbell) come from young, uneducated, conservative mothers since these are not traditional names. Dare we say that liberals would be responsible for choosing names like these!

By Guest Mary (not verified)
January 20, 2009 6:54 PM

Fascinating post Laura! Being pregnant, I frequent a lot of baby boards, and the discussion I see tends to (unscientifically) support your hypothesis of young/old naming patterns. And age definitely seems to have more influence than anything else.

I wanted to address Jane's statement that liberals become more conservative as they age. That was researched and addressed in the book
Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development by George E. Vaillant. He found that liberals tend to stay liberal and conservatives tend to stay conservative, based on an extensive longitudinal study of three cohorts (I think one men, one women, one college students) followed for over 60 years.

January 20, 2009 7:20 PM

This is a very interesting idea, and I think there's a lot of truth to what Laura says in the origination of stylistic naming differences.

I live in a traditionally red state, but a blue town in a red state. All of my friends here have at least a college degree, many with advanced degrees. In my circle, the couples are having children in their late 20s, early 30s. However, what is interesting is that the name choices are still overwhelmingly "red." There's not a Henry or Margaret in the bunch, but Peytons and Kalynns abound. It has been my experience that older mothers in "red" states are still following red naming patterns.

"Henry and Margaret's mom, you may be just a simple life circumstance away from Colton and Ashlyn's mom." In summary, although I think it's a good theory as to why regional naming differences evolved, I think once regional differences have become the norm, Ashlyn's mom is more influenced by the naming community than by her age, education, or political views.

January 20, 2009 8:08 PM

There is this to consider. One can be liberal AND conservative at the same time. eg. My husband and I are fiscally conservative but socially liberal, and have been since we were young adults. I suspect we are not alone.

On a totally unrelated subject, but still name-related, I'm looking forward to watching Malia and Natasha Obama come of age in the White House. It will be interesting to see if their names [or their parent's names] get a bump in naming circles because they belong to members of the First Family. Have any other Presidential family names become popular in their time?

By Kimberly (not verified)
January 20, 2009 8:27 PM

Re tree names: Doesn't Braddock mean "oak"? Also, while not a tree, I rather like the name Hollis though I don't know how much it has been coopted by girls.

Re original topic: Someone raised the question of paternal age. There are a couple of issues regarding this. First, so far as I know, most states do not track paternal age like they do maternal age. Also, it is much more common for a man to have a much younger wife than vice verse. It is also more common for the father to have previous children by another woman even when it is the mother's first child (the greatest indicator for remarriage after divorce is gender). Lastly, since it is still uncommon for a father to leave the workforce to raise children, fathers are less likely to delay children for the sake of their careers.

Baby name alert: I always note the new babies in Rowan's daycare. One of the newest -- Monica.

By Floyd Drexel Darvin (not verified)
January 20, 2009 9:15 PM

I have a nickname-as-full-name name, which I've always thought of as a bit silly (but I'm okay with it now, it's fine, it's mine). And my sister born two years later--her name rhymes with mine. Yup, you guessed it, young mom, no college. Never thought of it that way--I usually just roll my eyes and say "It was the SIXTIES..." with as much exasperation as I can muster. But no, now I'm sure her age and experience (or lack of experience) were part of the equation.

I have a PhD, and my kids were born when I was in my 30s. Their names are as old as the hills. I didn't inherit my mother's circumstances, so I didn't inherit her taste in names either.

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Laura!

By Elaine (not verified)
January 20, 2009 9:40 PM

This post is very interesting, thank you Laura. I think conversations like these can get touchy when qualitative judgements are made. (It makes me feel like having a child young means I'm not smart.) So that's why I find Laura's conclusion so important: "Henry and Margaret's mom, you may be just a simple life circumstance away from Colton and Ashlyn's mom. Be we red and blue or purple, this nation could use a lot of mutual understanding in the years ahead.

I'm a mixed bag--college educated and very intelligent (smiles), consider myself a "red stated person," had a child at a young age and named her Eloise. I suspect we are all shades of purple which I think is the point.

A mantra I adopted while in college: "it's not right or wrong, it's just different." Be it Rylee or Margaret, it's not right or wrong, it's just different.

By Uly (not verified)
January 20, 2009 10:21 PM

That map is very stark and scary, and no doubt wonderful to people who want to feel like they're a firm majority (or otherwise an oppressed minority), but it's not very accurate in the real world. Try these maps instead:

Purple! Percentages! County by county breakdowns! Cartograms indicating relative population!

Much more accurate than a stark red and blue state by state analysis.

By Uly (not verified)
January 20, 2009 10:22 PM

LOL, that's 2008. Still interesting, but here's 2004:


By Guest Bobbi (not verified)
January 20, 2009 11:06 PM

Very interesting. Coming from a red state, I'd like to add that a boy Riley and a girl Rylee probably come from very different mothers. Same with Avery...a mother that names her boy this is probably more "blue state" than the mother that bestows the name upon a daughter. Any one else feel this way? For some reason, androgynous names for boys seem more along the lines with the liberals and for girls, more conservative. Thoughts?

January 20, 2009 11:38 PM

I guess I'm an outlier. I'm blue politically from a blue state. I have a graduate level degree and didn't have my first child until I was 29. My husband is substantially older than I. Yet my girls' names are Phoenix and Indigo. Are those Red State names? They certainly aren't Henry and Margaret. Or do we need a California exception? I don't feel like the names are *that* unusual around here.

I would guess that there are lot of people in this blue state that purposely pick names outside of the top 200 or so. That would eliminate Henry, Margaret, Rylee *and* Colton!

January 21, 2009 12:06 AM

@Guest Bobbi - I think you're spot on. Oddly enough, I happen to know a family with 2 children: Riley (g) and Avery (b). Blue state namers in a blue state. They didn't know the sex of their babies before they were born, and planned to name them Riley & Avery whether they were girls or boys.

@Tirzah - Yes, we do need a "CA exception"! ;) The exception proves the rule?

By Kimberly (not verified)
January 21, 2009 12:09 AM

I'm more with Tirzah on this. I'm from THE purple state of Virginia (for the last 9 yrs) and from the red portion of California before that (yes, it exists). I had my first child at 31 after completing everything except for a research paper for my Masters degree. And I named my son Rowan -- not traditional, but not "made up" either. It IS androgynous -- but I bestowed it upon a boy instead of a girl. So what does this mean?

I think it means that while generalities may ring true, you can't apply the generalities to every individual. To which I have to say, Isn't it great? Think how boring it would be if we all had the same taste in names!

Anyhow, it is a rather thought provoking post. Thank you, Laura.

By JN (not verified)
January 21, 2009 1:15 AM

I fall under the category of older/educated/liberal and I gave my first child what would probably be considered a "blue state name" (although it definitely wasn't a classic, I'd consider it "crunchy").

By the time of my second pregnancy, I was hooked on the study of names. Absolutely fascinated (thanks, Laura!). And I ended up giving my second child a "red-state name".

In retrospect, as I look back on my decisions, I realize that the study of names has actually broadened my taste. Like a good musician who listens to classical & hip hop, maybe a good namer appreciates a similar diversity in the sound and style of names.

Just a thought...

January 21, 2009 2:01 AM

Like Elizabeth T, I was also wondering about fathers' ages and input in general. I guess fathers' ages would probably average out... but yeah I wonder how much influence they have too. And what kind of patterns of influence there are. I know my husband got annoyed when Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa's baby's name was announced, and everyone talked about HER as the primary namer, when since the name is Hawaiian, it was probably largely influenced by the father.

re: Chezzarae: I think this is how the Italian name Cesare is pronounced.

Tirzah: I agree that "out west" is different. My friend is 28 and just had her first kid and named him Peyton. She's college educated. I think politically middle-of-the-road. But she and her husband both have what I would call western US style names.

Of course yeah there are always exceptions...

By Rjoy (not verified)
January 21, 2009 2:54 AM

I live in southern Cali and I do agree that it is different here. Pretty much anything goes. Especially since it is so diverse here.

I am a college educated young mom. I had my first at twenty and I am having my fifth just before I turn 29. I am conservative. My kids names are more classic-ish, but not not exactly the norm. My youngest child's name is Hebrew so that really throws people. California is really hard to pin. It is a blue state but there is a lot of red people here.

Interesting post, but not my favorite.

By Eo (not verified)
January 21, 2009 10:17 AM

Jane Soon-to-be-Mother-of Five, I'm with you! And I appreciate the tartness and wit with which you made your point.

This blog has had this discussion before, and, without being repetitive, my personal preference would be that the politics be kept out...

Well, Elizabeth T., funny you should ask about Manx names, another favorite of mine! Again, I'm definitely not an expert, but have noticed a few things that seem to characterize names from the Isle of Man.

They seem to be more closely related to old Irish names than some other Celtic names. Indeed, isn't the Manx language strongly related to Irish Gaelic? Not sure, but I think so.

Again, the names are a mix of Manx words and meanings, and adaptations of names from other languages.

Interestingly, lots of them have the prefix "Gil" (for males) and "Caly" (for females). These denote "servant of" and are followed by names of various saints or even the Deity.


Adaue-- Adam

Ae-- Hugh

Airh-- Aurelius

Alured-- Alfred

Cane-- from word for "warrior"

Carbry-- from Cairbre, "charioteer"

Colum-- "dove"

Colyn-- pet form of Nicholas

Cowel-- "co-pledge"

Doolish-- Douglas

Dugal-- "black stranger"

Euan-- John

Fingal-- "fair valor"

Gilbrid-- "servant of St. Bridget"

Gilchrist-- "servant of Christ"

Huchon-- diminutive form of Hugh

Jenken-- diminutive of John

Lugh-- Lucius (wasn't Lugh a fabled Irish prince?)

Ollick-- Noel

Rigard-- Richard

Sytric-- Old Norse Sigtriggr, "victory faithful"

Wilmot-- diminutive of William


Aedyt-- Edith

Affrica-- borne by popular Manx princess. Variants are Aurick and Averick

Ainle-- Angela

Barriaght-- Victoria

Calyvorra-- "Mary's servant"

Calycrist-- "Christ's servant"

Ealish-- Alice

Eunys-- "pleasure"

Fingola/Fenella-- "fair shoulder"

Flaunys-- Uranias

Jinn-- "coil"

Kikil-- Cecilia

Malane-- Madeline

Moirrey-- Mary

Myghin-- "mercy"

Rein-- Regina

Reynylt-- feminine or masculine form of Reginald

Sessott-- diminutive of Cecilia

Vorgell-- "sea bright"

Ysbal-- Isabel

By Anne with an E (not verified)
January 21, 2009 10:59 AM

@Nicole S. That's funny, I know a family with a Rylee and an Avery, both girls.

Re: the age of mothers debate--in my family it went me, then college, then 4 more children for my parents. My two sisters and I all have names that were extremely trendy at the time, which I think fits the conservative young mother stereotype. But my two brothers both have extremely traditional, Biblical names, which fits the more educated mother stereotype. So maybe my mom fit both stereotypes since she went to college in the middle of her children? Or I wonder if there is often more of a correlation with trendy girl names than trendy boy names for young mothers?

January 21, 2009 11:06 AM

I love reading the lists of names from different countries and cultures. Last semester in my class I had the following students:
Vimal (a man from India)
Saliha (a Pakistani woman)
Umit (a Turkish woman)
Dari (a Mongolian woman)
Suzan (an Iranian woman)
Daraya (a Thai woman)

There was also Sarah from Hong Kong and Isaac, whose parents were from China (I don't know if he had a Chinese name or if Isaac was his given name). It was obviously a very international class.

A shout out for a great book full of all sorts of great names from the Muslim world: "Three Cups of Tea" by David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortensen. From a naming perspective, the book was fascinating because it follows Mortensen as he builds schools all over Central Asia. The people he meets are from many different cultures in Pakistan and Afghanistan. (This is an outstanding book for many reasons--and for once, I think reading the names is the least! But the names are wonderful.)

By Aybee (not verified)
January 21, 2009 11:16 AM

Fwiw, I didn't take this post to be overly political-- I enjoyed Laura's take and took it to mean that it is the mother's age, not political affiliation, that drives naming. I thought Laura's point was that mothers tend to be older in blue states.

That said, of course there are exceptions in both categories. Religious conservatives may be partial to "old-as-the-hills" saints' names; one very left-leaning family I know, 10 years ago named their daughter Bayleigh, my guess is because they thought they were bucking trends.

By the same token, I personally know a Brayden and a Jaiden. The first was born to a 22-year old, the second to a 27-year old.

I think Laura's assessment is insightful and accurate-- but of course generalities are just that and cannot be applied in all cases.

January 21, 2009 11:52 AM

Eo-I enjoy looking at the lists for mother countries as well. Is there a different pronuciation of the Manx names similar to Irish names or do they sound pretty much how they look?
Btw, for anyone else interested I did locate a great website for Irish names with pronunciation guide:

By Guest (not verified)
January 21, 2009 11:58 AM

I'm from the Midwest, and I don't see a lot of evidence of Laura's premise here. I grew up in a red state, but now live in a blue state (both in the Midwest). I consider myself a libertarian, which is more conservative (I like the government out of my pocket AND my bedroom). I have a doctorate, my husband has a bachelor's, and we had our children in our 30s, but I am the mom of two children with trendier names. The classics are too old and stuffy to me.

My sister-in-law, on the other hand, got pregnant for the first time in her early 20s and is now working toward her community college degree in her 30s after having 3 more children. She chose traditional names until her last child who was born last year.

In the urban area where I live and work, I see quite a mix of educated professionals with a variety of naming styles.

This is still an interesting post, but I do not read it and think, "Wow, that's so true!"

By Guest (not verified)
January 21, 2009 12:27 PM

This article is very interesting but doesn't seem to ring true at all in my part of the nation. I have a BS degree and am almost 27 with no children yet. However, I do have my future children named and all of the names are far from traditional. My oldest sister on the other hand had first child at 20 & no college education and her kids names are very "old", traditional.
All of my friends who have kids started in the early 30's and all have college educations and none of the kids have traditional names. Even one of the doctors I work with whose wife is a lawyer have trendy names.
I just dont think that the maternal age & naming style correlation relates much at all from my perspective.

By hyz
January 21, 2009 12:37 PM

I think there will be exceptions to every rule (California naming being one of them, hipster naming another, probably, along with a zillion others), but I DID read this post and think "wow, that's so true, in general."

First of all, I want to point out that I don't think Laura was making a particularly political point. To the contrary, I think the only *causal* connection she focused on was between maternal age and trendy/traditional names. The other connections she noted were mostly correlative (i.e. people with more education tend to be more liberal, blue states have higher maternal age, blue states have more traditional names, etc.). These correlative claims should not be particularly controversial, since they are (largely) verifiable, positive statements. Laura *did* speculate that perhaps certain conservative values may lead to a greater proportion of young mothers, while certain liberal habits may lead to older mothers, and while that argument makes some sense to me, you could certainly disagree with it--but I don't think that was her main point. In fact, I think the main point was that the ACTUAL, verifiable difference in naming styles between red and blue states may not be primarily attributable to political leanings at ALL, but rather to maternal age, which ALSO happens to strongly correlate with the red/blue state division, for whatever reason.

So, focusing on *age* and *naming style*, I would again say, "wow, that's pretty darn true." Most of the college educated, older (late 20s plus) mothers I see having kids are giving them the buttoned-down names like Sam, Julia, Henry, Oliver, Alistair, Christian, Benjamin, Peter, Christine, Hope, Anna, Margaret, Caroline, etc. On the other hand, the young and/or less educated mothers I come across are giving names like Riley (b), Riley (g), Maddy (gx2), Journey (g), Jon@@h (that's two A's in Jonah), etc. I, too, know the California exceptions (highly educated, older parents giving made-up, exotic, or otherwise unusual names), and plenty of others, but to me, they do seem the exception, not the rule.

January 21, 2009 12:53 PM

My friend is having a a baby in about 6 weeks. She is clueless as to what to name this child. They have a Carter. They kind of like Ava, Sophia, and maybe Abigail. They kind of like Isaiah. But get hung-up on the fact/idea that Abigail and Isaiah are Bible names. I say she needs to look past that. I also don't think she should put herself in such a tight box just bc Carter is a Pres. name. (her reasons, not mine) Anyone have any suggestions?

January 21, 2009 1:04 PM

Jessica- I like all the names mentioned, the girls names are all pretty popular, but certainly nice names. When I think Abigail I tend to think early American classic. Abigail Adams obviously, but also great people like Abigail May Alcott, Louisa May Alcott's mother (a wonderful and interesting woman!). I really don't think of it as biblical when I just hear it. Isaiah I definitely think of as biblical though I don't know that that's bad even if they're not religious. Seems a little odd style-wise with Carter though...

Speaking of controversies the nytimes had a new article on the family that named their children after Nazi's
It has some interesting legal notes on whether naming can be abuse or not.

By Aybee (not verified)
January 21, 2009 1:23 PM

I have no problem with the name choices but do find them kind of an odd style-match to Carter. Can you tell us why they chose Carter? Maybe if I have a better idea of their parameters I can be a better help.

For now I'll suggest:
Wesley, Zachary, Elijah (for no-good reason, seems less biblical than Isaiah to me; Ian, Max,Liam, and Blake.

Arianna, Lily, Lydia, Lara, Cassidy, Sydney and Kira

Good luck to your friend!

January 21, 2009 1:36 PM

Carter seems to me to be a midwestern name. Along the lines of Dakota or Sierra. I do not immediately make the presidential connection when I first see Carter. The other names you listed that she likes also do not seem to fit this style on the surface. However, some other presidential names that are more mainstream these days are Reagan, Kennedy, Jackson, and Lincoln. These also have a midwestern feel for me especially Jackson.
Other names with the same feel for me as Ava + Sophia are:
(g)Olivia, Chloe, Lydia, Isabella, Grace, Amelia
Sadie, Avery, Alexandra, Caroline, Emma, Phoebe, Katharine, Charlotte,
(b)Noah, Owen, Maxwell, Theodore, Aiden, Julian, Pierce, Isaac, Elliott, Parker, Andrew, Lucas, James, Brady
See if any of those strike her fancy and let us know so we can refine.

By Beth the first (not verified)
January 21, 2009 1:50 PM

Argh, I keep getting my name blocked because a registered user took it and I! was! here! first! Shoulda registered I guess.

Anyway. I like it when Laura gets political, and then people respond, because I actually learn more about people who don't share my political persuasions (as an academic in the bluest city in a blue state, I don't get out "red" much).

I fit the analysis to a T: had my kid at 38, chose fusty old family name. I do think hipster names are in a different category -- they tend to come from highly educated but younger parents. Only out here in SF would I have European-American friends with kids named Pica, Tesla, Kesiah, and Jaguar.

By Melissa C (not verified)
January 21, 2009 2:00 PM


Here's a few suggestions not sure if they are your friend's style at all but I think they would sound good with Carter.

Sadie, Victoria, Chloe, Paige, Samantha, Mia, Ella, Brooke, Zoe, Madeline

Austin, Noah, Chase, Devin, Jesse, Tristan

By Melissa C (not verified)
January 21, 2009 2:02 PM

Sorry if I wrote duplicates... left this page open for an hour before answering and didn't refresh.

January 21, 2009 2:45 PM

OK so I called her and asked about a bunch of your suggestions. Funny you see Carter as Midwestern. She originates in OH. :) Why did they choose Carter? They were going through the baby name book frantically looking and she read Carter outloud and dh said "That's it!" and they closed the book.

She does not want a C name or beginning sound. (outs Chloe)
He does not like many old names. (Elijah, Noah, Owen are out)
Nothing remotely androgynous. (his grandma was Jessi, so he thinks of it as a girl. Reagan and Madison are too crossover)
The SIL is Sadie. and her baby it Tristan. and the other SIL has an Olivia.

She likes:
Max - but slightly worried about the dog name, I said not to worry about that bc her likes are so narrow and it is popular enough on its own.
Grace is growing on her.
She likes Mia.
DH loves Brooke but she thinks its overused. She knows of a couple of them and lots of mn usage.
She likes that she does not know any other Carter.
Would kind of liek a boys name that ends in -n.
Likes girls names that end in -a.

Her style is too contemporary for her own good. She likes fairly common names but does not like knowing other kids with the name. that to me is a problem. :)

January 21, 2009 2:56 PM

hyz: I really like the clarifications you made. I think this post was heavier than other posts. I had to read it very slowly and reread and stuff. lol.

I also think that... well... what do you all think of this? If you take offense at Laura's post, does it mean that you believe that one category of names is better/worse than the other?

sidenote: came across the name Jinah yesterday. I think it was a Korean American. Made me think of Minna as another name that would work well in Korea and the U.S. I think it is probably pronounced a little different than Gina but... close.

Jessica: Your friend doesn't want to give a Bible name? I can relate to that. I agree that Isaiah reads strongly as Biblical, but Abigail much less so. She feels like because Carter is a president's name, her other names have to be... what exactly? I think of Carter as a surname first, not necessarily a president's name.

January 21, 2009 3:00 PM

Jessica: Carter and Grace seem like one of those common sib pairs. I don't know any myself, but feel like it's come up here before. (This is not good or bad... unless she would feel weird about it.)

I think Brooke is probably more common in the parents' generation than it will be in the child's--if that makes a difference to her. I think this is a good way to get names that are not too out there, but will not force the child to be Brooke K (or whatever).

Maybe she should look at the census list and start from the bottom?