Monday, June 9, 2008

The Danger of Being Ernest

A new study by economists Daniel Lee and David Kalist of Shippensburg University looks at the correlation between unpopular names and crime (news article here). They find a positive association between unpopular names and juvenile delinquency. The more unpopular a name, the more likely it was to show up in the names of young men in the juvenile justice system. So, if you run into a young man named Alec, Ernest, Ivan or Malcolm, look out.

The authors of course are careful to not claim a causal relationship here. Just naming your kid Ivan isn't going to turn him into a criminal. The more likely explanation is that unpopular names seem to be associated with poor economic conditions and family structure, which in turn is the probable causal factor.

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