538 Covers Baby Names

None of this is news to those of us who follow the Baby Name Wizard, but it's fascinating nevertheless:

 

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-to-tell-someones-age-when-all-you-know-is-her-name/

 

And as a bonus, Nate Silver links to the BNW!

Replies

1
June 1, 2014 12:33 AM

Definitely fascinating, but there's a major hole in their method: immigrants. I don't see a way to account for them using SSA data and actuarial tables. What we need is SSA-type name lists from the Census Bureau.

(What pointed this out to me was the third chart, the 25 most common male names: it says 75% of Andrews are younger than 35 -- but the only Andrew I know just turned 90. He immigrated in 1948; I have no idea when he got his Social Security number.)

Come to think of it, does anyone know: do the current SSA lists include adults getting their numbers for the first time, or do they restrict it to babies? The earlier years -- especially the 1800s -- have to be based on some combination of other data, because babies didn't get SSNs back then...

2
June 1, 2014 9:10 AM

The SSA list doesn't differentiate on when a person's number was applied for (indeed before SSNs were needed to claim a child as a dependent in the late 1980s many people didn't get their number until they started working). The list is restricted to those born in the U.S. though, so those who immigrate to the country and then get their SSN don't count. Also, I think the name that is recorded for the stats is whatever it was when the SSN was first applied for (you can see that with "placeholder" names like "Unknown" and "Baby" showing up, which were used when a number needed to be obtained before the parents could decide on a name).

You can read more about these and other "artifacts" in the SSA list in this post from me.