What’s In A Name?
A new study says that boys with “strange” first names are more likely to end up in jail:
Writing in Social Science Quarterly, Shippensburg University professor David Kalist says giving newborn males oddball, girly or strange first names may just help land them in jail.
In alphabetical order, the Top 10 “bad boy” names, according to Kalist, are Alec, Ernest, Garland, Ivan, Kareem, Luke, Malcolm, Preston, Tyrell and Walter.
…[The report is based] on a study of some 15,000 names given to baby boys between 1987 and 1991. They found that the more unlikely the name, the more likely a boy is to commit a delinquent act.
The article goes on to suggest that merciless teasing during childhood gives rise anger and bitterness and, thus, incarceration. While I don’t see much likelihood of that for boys named, say, Alec, I can’t help but wonder if there’s not at least some degree of unaccounted-for selection bias involved (say in the upbringing provided by parents who would name a child Garland).
Others are apparently more interested in the humour value of the story.1
[W]ithin moments of the Social Science Quarterly report’s release, many Web sites were already poking fun at it. Writing on the Laughing Stork Web site, Candy Kirby commented, “People warned my parents I would end up a hooker or a stripper if they named me ‘Candy.’ And look at me. I NEVER dabbled in prostitution!”
To which one can only say, as the Kurgan did, “Of course you are.”
UPDATE (James Joyner): Apparently, there is a never-ending fascination among scholars with this subject. Back in October 2003, I posted on a “study saying people with unusual names have trouble getting hired in corporate America.” A post from January of this year also referenced Kalist and Lee’s study. I used both occasions, naturally, to invoke Shel Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue,” popularized by the late Johnny Cash.
Relatedly, I posted in October 2005 about Nicolas Cage naming his son “Kal-el.” While I refrained from Cash references, Kevin McGehee did not.
1 Candor demands that I confess that I seriously considered naming this post “The Importance of Being Ernest.”