Give Your Son an Unusual Name and Jail Could Be in His Future

jailkid.jpgThere are so many worries when choosing your child’s name. You don’t want to offend an entire religion, hurt a family member’s feelings, or choose a name that is too common. But be careful when choosing a unique name for your son, because a new study shows that naming a boy an unusual name could land him behind bars.
In the professional journal Social Science Quarterly, Shippensburg University professor David Kalist says giving baby boys unusual or feminine first names makes them more likely to land in jail.
The study looked at 15,000 names given to baby boys between 1987 and 1991. The more unusual the name, the more likely that boy would turn to crime. Kalist explains, “Uncommon names are likely not the cause of crime but correlated with factors that increase the tendency toward juvenile delinquency.” Prior studies reveal that uneducated people tend to choose unusual names and spellings for their children.

According to Kalist, the top 10 “bad boy” names are Alec, Ernest, Garland, Ivan, Kareem, Luke, Malcolm, Preston, Tyrell and Walter.
Walter? Doesn’t really stir up the image of bad boy to me. So I asked Pam Satran, Montclair baby name expert and co-owner of Nameberry what she thought of this study:

“I think there are a couple of problems with it. For one thing, names have changed so much in the last 20 years that whatever experience a little boy named Luke or even Kareem had in 1989 is very different from what he’d have today. Parents have gotten much more adventurous with names, especially boys’ names, and kids are less and less likely to be teased for having ethnically-distinct, unisex, or even ‘oddball” names.
Their list of names is so strange that i can’t help but question other factors in their sample. Ivan? Who are these ‘bad boy’ Ivans they found? And Garland? Garland wasn’t in the top 1000 in 1990, which means there were fewer than 177 boys (I would guess far fewer) named Garland that year. So how many of those could possibly have become criminals?”

Does your son have an unusual name? Are you worried that he may turn into a bad boy?

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  1. Funny thing, I think our President may be changing this, in that “unusual names” in the time frame of the study may have been America getting used to new patterns of immigration where new folks felt no need to change their names (or get plastic surgery as some “ethnic” folks have for generations).
    So while I named my son after one of the greatest Presidents ever thinking I wanted a strong name, the skinny half black guy with the funny name ended up as President.
    Therefore, I think if you are smart, speak well and present yourself well, you’ll get the job– even if your named Barack Hussein Obama II.
    Likewise, if you can’t speak English, have just learned who Skip Gates is and have no education, you won’t even if your name is John Steven Smith III.
    Names don’t matter. Education does.

  2. At least one bad boy Ivan
    I wonder how much of this article was filtered by the powers that be who said “We can’t use that name, we’ll be called racists. Let’s go with the ‘white’ names instead.”

  3. My dear Professor Williams –
    “even if your named Barack Hussein Obama II.” should read “even if you’re named….”
    Nit picky and petty, yes, but why try to insult me and what you perceive to be my lack of intelligence and/or education on this thread when I didn’t even post? I have admitted that it is pathetic that I wasn’t familiar with Gates, what more do you want. I haven’t seen many people on this site admit to being wrong or ignorant on many topics–quite the contrary, really.
    Here is a commentary on the issue that I found interesting:,8599,1913438,00.html
    Okay, this is a total hijack of this post–sorry, Georgette!
    Back on topic: My son’s name is rather traditional. I think it is more difficult to be creative with a boy’s name as opposed to a girl’s. Unfortunately, there is always the fear that less traditional names for a boy could be pansy-like. This fear does not exist for a girl, i.e., girly is fine and androgynous works, too. Wasn’t a similar topic written about in Freakonomics? Methinks so.
    And on a lighter note, a friend of mine was a med student at UMDNJ and told me of a woman naming her twin children Ampy and Genty after ampicillin and gentamycin (she just liked the sound of it, had no idea what the abbreviated terms meant).

  4. Re “generically named Mike”‘s column, I am an Afro-American mom and I will say it….I was expecting to see Daquan, Raquan, Rasheed, Jaheem, etc….The truth is that these names that Afro-Americans have been giving their children lately are ridiculous. Shaniqua, Lakeesha, when I see some of these names attached to crime stories, I think to myself “you cant make this up”. On the flip side, a study was done that showed that when resumes with applicants such as the aboved were mailed to prospective employees, they were much more likely to be ignored than the exact same resume with “White sounding” names (I believe the examples used were Emily and Ashley, but I could be wrong, sorry if I am). We as Afro-American parents do our children no favors with these capricious, ridiculous sounding names. We guarantee at the very least that they will be negatively stereotyped.

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