Freakonomics Baby Name Predictions Missing The Mark

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It's been five years since Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner went out on a limb in their mega-bestseller, "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything," and predicted the most popular baby names for the year 2015. A new study from a leading baby names website casts doubt on the accuracy of Levitt's and Dubner's forecast, and shows that unless things turn around quickly, Levitt and Dubner won't be looking very prophetic by 2015.

high-end parents begin to abandon it

Baby Names Garden, a leading baby names website based in the U.S., has been tracking the "Freakonomics" authors' baby name predictions since 2006. Now, the most complete analysis to date from Baby Names Garden shows that Levitt's and Dubner's predictions are falling wide of the mark. It is halfway between 2005 and 2015, and fewer than 30% of the names chosen by Levitt and Dubner are even on the national Top 100 baby names list, according to the just-released study. If things don't change quickly, the authors are going to arrive at the year 2015 with some explaining to do.

In "Freakonomics", the authors came up with a novel theory of how baby names rise and fall in popularity. According to the duo, baby names move through the population from a higher socioeconomic level to a lower level. Levitt and Dubner found "a clear pattern at play: once a name catches on among high-income, highly-educated parents, it starts working its way down the socioeconomic ladder." When the name is adopted "en masse," then "high-end parents begin to abandon it," and the whole cycle repeats itself with a new batch of names.

Based on this theory, Levitt and Dubner forecast the most popular boys' and girls' names for ten years hence, or 2015. And this year, near the halfway mark between 2005 and 2015, the Baby Names Garden study shows that Levitt's and Dubner's statistical extrapolation is looking a little shaky.

The editors of Baby Names Garden have analyzed the rankings of all the baby names in Levitt's and Dubner's forecast. Their latest analysis shows that only 27% of the boys' names and 29% of the girls' names on the "Freakonomics" list are even in today's top 100 names, leaving over 70% of the authors' predictions looking increasingly like bad bets.

Worse yet, according to the Baby Names Garden study, when Levitt and Dubner read their statistical tea leaves back in 2005, their list included 7 girls' names already on the top 100 list. Five years later, there are still only 7 out of 24 girls' names on the top 100 list - and six of them are the same as in 2005.

As with all the topics in the well-known "Freakonomics" book, the section on baby names has had its share of supporters and detractors. But only Baby Names Garden has followed this issue, year-after-year, with in-depth analysis, and a determination to fully evaluate the authors' claims.

The complete Baby Names Garden study can be seen at, and includes year-by-year rankings for all the the "Freakonomics" names, additional statistical insights, and detailed commentary.


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