In 1953 the third most popular name for boys was Michael. In total, 84,000 babies were given the name which amounted to about 1 out of every 24 boy babies. In 2010 Michael again ranked in third place. However, this time there were only 17,000 babies named Michael or about 1 out of 118. Even though the name remained at the top of the heap, something had changed.
The big difference is that names have gotten more diverse. In 1950 the Top 100 Names (boy and girl combined) accounted for 58% of all names. Now it only accounts for 24%. This is why you used to be able to count on a predictable classroom of Christopher's, Mary's, and John's. Today things are very different.
The widget above helps you examine the trend. You can use the slider to pick the top five names or the top 5,000 names. You can choose between all baby names or just one gender. However, no matter how you slice the data the overall trend is the same. The distribution of names is more spread out than it sued to be.
On the whole boy names have always been more clustered than female names. Today the top 1,000 boy names make up 78% of all boy babies but just 68% of all girl babies have a name from the top 1,000 girl names.
There are a few reasons why the Baby Name Institute theorizes this is happening. First, America is becoming more diverse. Children of immigrants from non-English countries may be less inclined to name their child Adam or Benjamin. On top of that, there is less pressure to conform now than there might have been in the 1950s. The stigma around names with non-English heritage is decreasing and in many cases there are even celebrated.
However, perhaps more important than that is the desire to have a unique name. The traditional Robert's, Emily's, or Jonathan's seem a bit boring. With the rise of television and then the internet people both hear new names they would have never before and can see the thousands upon thousands of people who have the same first name. Luckily, with sites like the Baby Name Institute you can even explore new names easier than ever before instead of sticking to naming a child after a family member or from a name in the community.
We realize the desire for a unique name is so strong we even created a unique name in the classroom calculator which determines the odd your child will be the only child with their name in the entire school.
While the Baby Name Institute does not favor one name over others, it is not a bad thing at all that names are getting more unique and creative. I applied the Gini Coefficient to all baby names. The Gini Coefficient is a mathematical quantity that ranges from 0 to 1 which is usually used to describe the inequality of wealth, but it can be used to describe any distribution of numbers. In 1950 the top 1% of all names "controlled" 58% of all names. The Gini Coefficient that year was 0.94 which would indicate high inequality. In 2017 the Gini Coefficient was a slightly lower 0.87.
How diverse will the names get? It's unclear. Looking at the graphs above it appears that the trend will continue for some time. However, traditional names rarely go completely out of style so it may be a long time before every child has a literal one-of-a-kind name.