New Study Shows Climate Impact on Baby Names
Nature-related baby names are a huge trend across the board right now. But did you know that the climate actually influences the type of nature names American parents are choosing for their children?
A recent study published in the journal Evolutionary Human Sciences analyzed over a century of baby names data from the Social Security Administration, comparing the relative frequency of month and season names for girls in different parts of the United States.
The study's co-authors, professors Raymond Huey and Donald Miles, explain that they chose to focus on female names because girls are given seasonal names much more frequently than boys.
Month names were given nearly ten times more frequently to girls than boys across the period studied. Meanwhile, season names like Summer and Autumn were almost 200 times more popular for baby girls than boys.
Interestingly, the authors found that only 41.6% of a sample of girls with a month name were born in that month, and only 37.5% of girls with season names were born in that season.
It seems that sound, style and personal associations with particular seasonal names factor into parents' decisions just as much as birth timing.
Month and Season Names by Latitude
Professors Huey and Miles analyzed the prevalence of the most popular month and season names for girls by US state, to reveal some fascinating patterns.
They found that the relative frequency of the name April increases as latitude decreases. In other words, April is proportionally most popular in southern states, where spring arrives earlier.
Conversely, the name June becomes proportionally more popular as latitude increases. Its relative frequency is greatest in northern states, which experience later springs than in the South.
And the most popular season name in the US, Autumn, predominates in northern states and in eastern states where autumn foliage is particularly plentiful and colorful.
The study authors analyzed the relative frequency of Autumn as a percentage of all season names by state, and found that it strongly correlated with the proportion of that state covered by deciduous shrubs or trees. This data was available for 30 eastern states.
Looking outside the US, the co-authors also note that: "On a continental scale, Autumn [is] most popular in English-speaking countries with intense colouration of autumn foliage."
Outliers in the Data
The study highlighted a two interesting outliers in the predominant trends for month names by latitude. Alaska and Hawaii are described as "conspicuous outliers for month names" – although, perhaps surprisingly, not for season names.
The reason is not entirely clear, but the co-authors suggest that it might reflect the "frontier" geography of these states, their small population size, and the relatively high overall proportion of immigrants and (for Alaska) the relatively high proportion of immigrants from southern states.
Interviewed for University of Washington News, co-author Raymond Huey said: “I thought that climate and the environment might influence the choice of baby names, but I never thought we would see a clear trend for either month or seasonal names, simply because parents take into consideration many factors when they name their child.”
“Because of these other factors — including strong cultural trends and traditions — I expected that there’d be too much social ‘noise’ in the data and we’d have a low chance of seeing any environmental ‘signal.’ But the signals were there, and they were strong.”
What do you think of these findings? Does this reflect the names and trends you see where you are?