Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Most Popular First Names

Every year since 2008 I've collected the first names of UGA's freshman class and have then written about it. Why? I have too much time on my hands, that's one. Two, it's a fun exercise to show students, to demonstrate you can find story ideas in odd places.

Well, it's time for the 2017 update.

First, a bit of history. Since 2008, the most popular UGA freshman name has been either Sarah or Emily, but in 2016 we saw a shift to a new leader -- William. And William is also the most popular freshman name in 2017, at least at UGA, at least among freshmen. Here's a quick wordcloud of the 2017 names:

Here are the Top 10 for 2017, with the 2008 rank in parentheses

1. William (3)
2. Sarah (1)
3.  Madison (235, wow)
4. Emily (2)
5. Caroline (23)
6. Hannah (27)
7. (tie) John (15) and Anna (33)
10. (tie) Matthew (6) Jacob (39) and Andrew (21)

The big move up is obvious -- Madison. Ranked only #235 in 2008, now it's #3. That said, you have to keep in mind the actual numbers here are relatively small between names. Number 1 in 2017 was William, with 67 of them. Sarah had 64, Madison 59. Back in 2008, there were only three named Madison, so that's something. 

To really have fun with this, I'd need to dip into the Social Security baby name data for the year these students were likely born, see if there was a burst nationally or even in Georgia of kids named Madison compared to earlier years. I can say, based on a cursory look, William was the most popular boy name in Georgia in 1999, roughly when these students were born, and Madison was the 4th most popular name. If we go back 10 years, Madison is the #1 Georgia girl's name, so I can't really explain the boomlet in Madison at UGA. It will take some more data digging.

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