Social Security Baby Names
It's probably a little known fact, but the event that we know today as the annual updating of the Social Security baby names site, which usually occurs on the Friday before Mother's Day, did not originate with a list of baby names at all. In fact, the seed for today's enormously popular Social Security baby names site was a series of studies on surnames, not given names.
Between 1954 and 1984, the Social Security Administration had published occasional "notes," as they refer to their documents, on the distribution of different surnames and their popularity. Around 1998, these notes inspired one of the actuaries at Social Security, Michael Shackleford, to summarize popular given names as well.
Shackleford's original note, entitled "Name Distributions in the Social Security Area, August, 1997," was the forerunner of the modern Social Security baby names site.
Shackleford's note included just three tables of baby names data, and was modest indeed compared to the treasure trove of information presented on today's Social Security site. Shackleford only provided the three most popular names for boys and girls from 1900 to 1997, and the top 40 names for 1996, along with their frequency of usage.
But the most important legacy of Shackleford's study is not the data itself. Shackleford recognized that given names are an enduring and fascinating topic, of interest to us all. By choosing to study the popularity of baby names, Shackleford laid the foundation for the Social Security popular baby names site that we know today. His work sparked enormous interest, and grew into a website has allowed researchers, web publishers, and authors to bring baby name information into public view in ways that Shackleford probably never imagined!
A visit to the site today reveals a rich set of features for baby names information. Here are some of the best ways you can use these features (keeping in mind, the data is limited to names that were in the top 1000 most popular names for any year):
- See how popular a name has been, every year since 1880
- Choose any year going back to 1880, and see the top 1000 names for that year
- See the percentage of total births, or the actual number of births, for any name since 1880
- View the change in popularity, up or down, for the top 500 names, from the current year to the previous year
- Select any decade back to the 1880s, and see the most popular names of the decade
- See the top 100 names for any state, for any year going back to 1960
- Compare the top five names across all states in a single view, going back to 1980
- View the top 50 pairs of twins names for the previous year, including female, male, and female/male twin pairs
The Social Security popular baby names site truly does offer a wealth of information that attracts countless visitors each year. It has sparked websites, books, widgets, baby name software applications, newspaper articles, and much more. Social Security adds new features periodically. It provides a great service, and it is undoubtedly far beyond anything that Michael Shackleford, the baby names data pioneer, would have dreamed of back in 1998!