How Much Is Your Name Worth?

This’ll be a repeat for those of you who’ve read Levitt and Dubner’s brilliant pop-economics bestseller Freakonomics, but since a relevant line of research contained therein was recently featured on ABC’s 20/20 I figured I’d post about it anyway. The book relates the scholarly work of Harvard econ professor Roland Fryer, Jr. on the commonality and job-market value of “white”-sounding names as compared to “black”-sounding names. 20/20 took 22 resumés differing only in the names listed at the top and uploaded them to various job-seeker sites (I’m assuming they used more than one, since it’d probably be pretty easy to spot duplicates on the same site). They found that recruiters were 17% more likely to download the resumés that used white-sounding names than those with black-sounding names. No big surprise there, though I would be interested to know if there were any other significant effects revealed by the data analysis that weren’t quite sexy enough for primetime.

I’ve reposted Fryer’s top 40 black and white names below the fold, so you can see how well your name-based racial assumptions measure up to the hard numbers:

20 “Whitest” Girl Names

Molly
Amy
Claire
Emily
Katie
Madeline
Katelyn
Emma
Abigail
Carly
Jenna
Heather
Katherine
Caitlin
Kaitlin
Holly
Allison
Kaitlyn
Hannah
Kathryn

20 “Blackest” Girl Names

Imani
Ebony
Shanice
Aaliyah
Precious
Nia
Deja
Diamond
Asia
Aliyah
Jada
Tierra
Tiara
Kiara
Jazmine
Jasmin
Jazmin
Jasmine
Alexus
Raven

20 “Whitest” Boy Names

Jake
Connor
Tanner
Wyatt
Cody
Dustin
Luke
Jack
Scott
Logan
Cole
Lucas
Bradley
Jacob
Garrett
Dylan
Maxwell
Hunter
Brett
Colin

20 “Blackest” Boy Names

DeShawn
DeAndre
Marquis
Darnell
Terrell
Malik
Trevon
Tyrone
Willie
Dominique
Demetrius
Reginald
Jamal
Maurice
Jalen
Darius
Xavier
Terrance
Andre
Darryl

So, have you ever experienced (or god forbid, exhibited) prejudice based solely on someone’s name? Do you get the sense that the racial signaling factor might be stronger for black names than white ones, since there are probably more black Colins out there than white Aaliyahs? (Interestingly enough, “aliyah” is a Hebrew word that refers to Jewish migration to the state of Israel, so it’s not like we just made that one up.) Anyone got any shocking name-related anecdotes to share?

Leave a Reply

Published on September 26, 2006 at 1:28 pm. 13 Comments.
Filed under academia,mainstream culture,racism.