Santa Cancels Baby Name Christmas
For the first time in its 23-year history, the new official list of most popular baby names in the US won’t be delivered on time by the Social Security Administration.
Instead of the usual Friday-before-Mother’s Day unveiling of last year’s most popular names, the SSA posted a message on its website reading: “Out of respect and honor for all people and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement of the 2019 most popular baby names is being rescheduled to a to-be-determined date.”
It’s like Santa canceled Christmas for baby name lovers. With the Social Security Office closed and work-at-home staffers overwhelmed administering government payments to US citizens impacted by the virus, we certainly understand the delay. But we can’t pretend not to be disappointed.
The announcement is Nameberry’s top news story of the year, and we spend weeks analyzing the ups and downs of baby name popularity to help parents make statistically-informed decisions about their name choices.
These days, that usually means avoiding names that have moved too far up the list too fast. Benjamin vaulted into the Top 10? No longer a finalist for the baby. Kylo has gone from quirky Star Wars fan name to hottest name of the year? Better keep looking.
Using the list as a too-popular name warning device makes sense as it was started in 1997 by SSA actuary Michael Shackleford, who set out to prove that there were too many Michaels in the world. Using Social Security records for births stretching back to the agency’s beginning, in 1880, he compiled the first-ever authoritative tally of baby name usage in the US.
Shackleford, whose career has since segued to Las Vegas where he is known as The Wizard of Odds, proved his point: the data showed that Michael was the most-used boys’ name for more than 40 years, starting in 1954. This hard evidence may have persuaded parents to move beyond Michael for their sons’ names, given that the name dropped to Number 2 in 1999 after the list’s appearance and has continued its downward slide.
The, well, popularity of the popular names list has inspired the SSA to expand its data around names. The agency now includes information on the names that increased and decreased the most in popularity, the top names by state, and – for baby name professionals or truly obsessed parents-to-be — complete data on every name given to five or more babies from every year since 1880.
But not this year. Not yet.
We have to assume that, once we can venture out for professional haircuts and pizza dinners again, once we can hire babysitters and send our kids back to school, the Social Security Administration will get around to announcing the 2019 baby names data. Then parents will have hard information on which to base their baby naming choices.
Until then? If you definitely don’t want to give your baby the Number 1 name, you might want to stay away from Olivia.
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on May 7th, 2020 at 9:09 am
At first I didn’t see a reason why they’d need to delay the release – until I went to their Facebook page and saw a TON of comments from people needing assistance on getting their relief check. Disappointing but understandable in not wanting to overwhelm their website (since I imagine traffic picks up dramatically on the day they release name data) – and hopefully once they get done with the relief checks then they’ll release the data. (If the delay was purely for the sake of not publishing data during the crisis without a tangible reason then I would’ve made a post asking they change their mind.)
By the way, this isn’t the first time since they published name data that they delayed the release: There was one year it was delayed until the Monday after Mother’s Day due to some news event taking priority on the morning show that the announcement was going to be made on.
My guess on when it will come out: If the issue with the relief checks is resolved by then, maybe letting dads get the honor this year by releasing it right before Father’s Day.
Pamela Redmond Said
on May 7th, 2020 at 10:45 am
Father’s Day would be a great idea, @namefan, but I’m guessing it won’t be released until they’re back in the office and all the other issues involving them around COVID-19 are resolved.
on May 7th, 2020 at 2:15 pm
I though of another probable issue: Since the tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, and that’s one of the main reason for babies having a Social Security number, the release may be delayed until that is done so the data won’t be (as) incomplete (and have to be updated the next year). (If this is true, then on the usual timetable we can expect the list in early August or so.)
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