Among the slew of end-of-decade and end-of-year wrap-up lists, there were several tallies of the most popular names of recent years (as well as predictions for name-trends of the future.) But If you are pondering giving your baby a distinctive name - like, say, Garland or Malcolm - you might want to think again.
Not only do kids with unusual names tend to rise to the top of big companies less often than others, but they also are more likely to wind up in jail.
Names like Michael, David, John, James, Richard, Paul, Edward and Robert are significantly more common among Fortune 1000 CEOs, compared with that same age group in the population as a whole, USA Today reported recently. (Not enough women appear among corporate leaders to assess the relative clout of female names.)
Separately, a scholarly study reported earlier this year showed that juveniles in jail, on probation or otherwise in trouble with the law had an above-average likelihood of having unpopular names - such as Walter, Ernest, Ivan, Kareem, Malcolm, Preston or Garland. The study compared juvenile delinquents' names with those of the population as a whole in a large, populous state. Researchers found youth with common names, such as Michael, Matthew, Christopher, David, Ryan or Brian, were less likely to get in trouble. The research, conducted at Shippensburg University, appeared in Social Science Quarterly.
Of course, many people with unusual names - Barack, for example, or Oprah - have done fine. A child's name alone doesn't shape his or her life. The Shippensburg study found unusual names were linked with other factors that make life harder for kids, such as a weaker family structure, poverty or low education. Kids with popular names tended to live among higher-income, better-educated populations. For example, the name Allison is usually selected by mothers with 17 or more years of schooling, and bypassed by mothers without a high school diploma.
Other research has suggested, however, that uncommon names can have a direct impact on kids, embarrassing them in their formative years, the USA Today story says. While parents might want their children to feel special or unique, it may be better to give children names that encourage them to be team players and put ego aside.
Also, adults may treat kids with unusual names differently in handing out opportunities; one widely reported experiment found that among 5,000 resumes sent to prospective employers, job applicants with names that suggested an African-American background were less likely to receive interview callbacks.
Jugglers have had animated discussions in the past about baby names. How important do you think a name, especially an unusual one, is in setting someone's course in life? Did you think about the social or career effects of the names you chose for your children?