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Freakonomics Baby Names: Previous Years' Articles

We're running out of room! Each year since we began monitoring the accuracy, or lack thereof, in the baby name predictions for 2015, by Freakonomics authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, we have written an analysis to accompany the release of new baby names data by the Social Security Administration. In an attempt to keep it all organized, we have moved the earlier articles to this separate page. Our original comments from 2006 are more or less repeated on the main Freakonomics baby names page. Here are the previous years' articles.


UPDATE, May 9, 2009.

Where does the time go? This is our 4th year tracking the top baby names predictions for the year 2015 made by economists Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in their 2005 book, “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything.” This article is updated every May, when the latest list of popular baby names is released by the U.S. Dept. of Social Security. If you want some background on how our "Freakonomics Baby Name Watch" came into being, just scroll down a little bit and check out the information right above the table.

The full set of multi-year rankings can be seen in our Freakonomics Baby Names Predictions Table.

Now, on to Dubner and Levitt's predictions, to see how they're holding up.

First, the boys' names. Last year, a little more than half the boy's names on the "Freakonomics" list, 13 to be exact, increased in popularity, while the other 9 either fell, or failed to break into the top 1000 baby names list. This ratio held true in 2008, as 13 names moved up, 5 moved down, and the same 4 names failed to make the top 1000. Will those outliers move up in popularity fast enough to become top baby names by 2015? We'll have to see.

Previously, we said that Beckett, Anderson and Harper looked like good bets and fast movers in the popularity stakes. In 2008, Beckett continued to move up quickly, entering the top 500 names at # 480. Anderson and Harper, however, seem to have stalled, at # 326 and # 860, respectively. We also noted last year that Will and Reagan needed to start moving up in popularity if they are going to have a chance by 2015. But this year, both those names slipped. At the top of the table, Jackson is the leading boy's name. It moved up one slot, to 32. Clearly, it is positioned well for a run at the crown by 2015. Carter and Oliver are two more names showing good pace as they move upwards in popularity. Our overall take on the boys' names is that the upward motion of 13 names out of a total of 22 is probably less than Levitt and Dubner would like to see, especially if they have made any side bets (which I have no reason to suspect they did). The four names that are not yet in the top 1000 need to start getting popular soon, or they'll drag the average down. And it's getting time for some of the others to start moving up more quickly, if they are going to be top names by 2015.

Turning to the girls' names, 7 out of 24 names remain outside the top 1000, and that has to be of concern to the authors. One third of their predictions for top girls' names are still out of the ballpark. There's some time left, but not an eternity. Of the 16 girls' names in the top 1000, 9 slipped in ranking and just 7 seven moved up -- a slightly worse showing than last year. To give them credit, Levitt and Dubner correctly called Emma as an enduring top name -- it finally grabbed the # 1 spot. However, Emma was # 2 in 2005, back when Freakonomics was published, so it's not like Levitt and Dubner can be called seers on that basis alone. They seem to have made a good call with Avery, now at # 38, up from # 67 back in 2005. Ava and Ella, strong names in 2005, continue to be highly popular. And Sophie, sitting at # 135 when Levitt and Dubner made their predictions, is now # 74 -- another good call. But on the other side of the coin, Quinn is slipping badly, along with Annika and Lara. Still, time is on their side.

That said, another year is well underway, and American parents are busy naming their offspring as usual. What are they naming them? What names are hot, and what names growing chilly? The scorecard will be revealed again in May, 2010. It will mark the half way mark for Levitt and Dubner's predictions -- half way to 2015. Maybe that will be the time for interested observers to start placing their bets...


UPDATE, May 13, 2008.

In their book “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything,” published in 2005, authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner claim that baby names “migrate” through the population from a higher socioeconomic level to a lower one. In chapter 6, they predict the most popular baby names for the year 2015. (See list below).

The release of the most popular baby names for 2007 by the Social Security Administration marks our third year of monitoring the accuracy of Levitt’s and Dubner’s predictions.

You can see the rankings for all the names they predicted in our Freakonomics Baby Names Predictions Table.

About two-thirds of the boys’ names increased in popularity in 2007 over 2006, excluding those names not yet in the top 1000. Of the one third in decline, none of the names that are slipping seem to be in serious trouble, but several of them, especially Will and Reagan, must start to turn things around in the near future if they are to climb more than 500 slots in the next eight years.

Last year, we singled out Beckett, Anderson, and Harper as boys’ names that looked like fast risers. Those names continue to move up, with Beckett again showing great promise by jumping from 758 to 667. Additionally, this year, Cooper, Oliver, Finnegan and Aldo also performed well, with Aldo recording an impressive gain of more than 150 spots.

On the girls’ side, seven out of twenty-four names still failed to make the top 1000. Girls’ names are usually more volatile than boys’ names, in terms of popularity, so there is no need to hit the panic button yet. Still, Levitt and Dubner will doubtless want to see some of those seven moving into the top tier soon.

Of the sixteen girls’ names in the top 1000, eight moved up in popularity in 2007, while seven moved down and one remained the same. Mostly, the movements were not large, although a couple of names merit comment. Sophie jumped from 125 to 82, positioning well for a run at the highest echelon. The name Quinn, on the other hand, fell dramatically, from 282 to 579. Perhaps it’s an aberration – next year’s position for this name will be one to watch out for.

It is still a long way to 2015, but some interesting developments are beginning to appear, both for and against the Freakonomics predictions. We’ll continue to monitor the Freakonomics baby names forecast as time unfolds!



UPDATE, May 17, 2007

In their book “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything,” authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner claim that baby names “migrate” through the population from a higher socioeconomic level to a lower one. In their book, they predict the most popular baby names of 2015. (See list below).

The year 2015 isn’t exactly around the corner, but their predictions are looking good following the release of the 2006 Most Popular Baby Names by the Social Security Administration.

You can see the rankings for all the names they predicted in our Freakonomics Baby Names Predictions Table.

Nearly 80% of the names chosen by Dubner and Levitt showed an increase in popularity in 2006 over 2005. (Excluding those names not yet in the top 1000). That’s impressive!

For boys’ names, the most dramatic upswing was for the name Beckett, which only a few months ago did not rate a definition in our database. But as we said then, if Levitt and Dubner are on target, we would be adding it soon, and we have now done so. The name Beckett made its debut appearance in the top 1000 list at number 758, which is an amazing leap onto the charts. Other notable boys’ names were Anderson, moving up one hundred places from 498 to 399, and Harper, appearing as a boys’ name for the first time at number 953.

In the girls’ column, there were no new arrivals in the top 1000 this year. The fastest-rising girls’ name is Phoebe, jumping from 425 to 366. At the top, Emma and Ava are ranked number 2 and 5 respectively, positioned well to remain popular through 2015. The names Sophie, Maya and Avery also showed solid improvement.

It is a long way to 2015, but for this year at least, the Freakonomics predictions seem right on target, showing the underlying strength of the authors’ thesis. We’ll be keeping watch as time goes by!

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