Philip Cohen Article on Name Trends
"In the tradition of treating statistical trends as horse races, I
imagine that there is one person named Mary, who is constantly falling
behind: first behind Linda, then Lisa, Jennifer, Ashley, Jessica, and so
on, all the way to Isabella and now Sophia.
But that's not how it happens—it just looks that way because of the
amazing regularity in human behavior, which produces an orderly
succession of names. Incredibly, out of 1.7 million girls' names
recorded by the SSA in 2011, I was able to predict to within 87 how many
would be named Mary. By simply taking the number born in 2010 and
subtracting the 5-year average decline, I predicted 2,584 would be born;
the actual number was 2,671 (an error of 3.3 percent).
Somehow, out of the millions of individual decisions parents make, they produce steady trends like this."
2 months ago