How Your Name Might Affect Your Success

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

My wife and I have recently been discussing our second son’s name.  My wife really likes the name Luke, and actually, so do I.  Although, the name Caleb has always appealed to me.

 

name successUnfortunately, my wife is not a huge fan.  She says she doesn’t like the meaning of Caleb, which means “dog” in Hebrew.  Luke, on the other hand, means “light-giving”.  Plus, Luke, the “beloved physician,” wrote two books of the Bible.  If we went with that name, maybe our son would follow suit and become a doctor! 

 

I tried to counter that Caleb also means “faithful”, but she still lacked interest.  I have a feeling that she just doesn’t like the name.  So we’ve reached a bit of an impasse with the name situation, but we still have a couple of months to go, so hopefully we can reach a good compromise.

 

It recently got me thinking about how important a name really is.  Does it really make a difference what we name our children?

 

The overwhelming evidence is yes.

 

Pronunciation

name successThe easier your name is to pronounce the more likable you are.  According to Adam Alter of NYU, “When we can process a piece of information more easily, when it’s easier to comprehend, we come to like it more.”

 

It doesn’t just stop there for adult names in his study.  He also found companies with easier to pronounce names and ticker symbols were more likely to trade better than the companies of more difficult-to-pronounce companies.

 

Racial Elements

In a study completed by the American Economics Association, “White-sounding names” received 50% more callbacks for interviews than candidates with “African American-sounding names”.  Additionally, the “White-sounding name” candidates received as many callbacks as those with an additional eight years of experience.  

 

Unique vs. Common Names

A Marquette University study revealed that those with unique names were less likable than those with common names.  In addition, employers preferred to hire those with common names over those with unique names.

 

name successResearchers also found that, regardless of the race of the person, those with unpopular names were more likely to engage in criminal activity.  Now before you jump to any conclusions, researchers have some theories about their findings. “Adolescents with unpopular names may be more prone to crime because they are treated differently by their peers, making it more difficult for them to form relationships.  Juveniles with unpopular names may also act out because they… dislike their names.”  I’m sure these individuals experience a tremendous amount of bullying and ostracism as well.

 

Other studies also affirm that boys with girls’ names are more likely to be suspended from school.  Additionally, the less popular the name of the child, the more likely they are to skip school.  In contrast, children with popular names are less likely to get into trouble with the law.

 

Unique Names- Some Positives!

While there are some downsides of a unique name, there are also some benefits.  According to a study by New York University, children with unusual names might be better at controlling their impulses because over the years, they spend much time dealing with people questioning the pronunciation, thus growing in patience.  On top of that, a uniquely-named person is more likely to be memorable.  When was the last time you met a “Soleil Moon”?

 

Women in Male-Dominated Fields

name successWhen it comes to names, it’s not just unique names and unpopular names that can hold you back.  In male-dominated industries, such as engineering and law, women with very feminine names may experience difficulty.  In contrast, women with gender-neutral names may be more successful.  Additionally, women with more feminine names are less likely to even pursue careers in the fields of math and science.

 

Grade Point Average

name successDid you know that the first letter of your name might influence the grade that you achieve in a class?  Studies done by researchers, Lief Nelson and Joseph Simmons, have shown that children with a first name that began with C and D were more likely to have lower GPAs than students whose name began with A or B.  Why is this?  It may be because children with first names beginning with a C or D may not view these letters as negatively and thus might be more comfortable receiving them as grades.

 

I would like to point out though, that the most common female CEO names include: Carolyn, Cynthia, and Deborah.  So clearly not all C and D named individuals are under-achievers! 

 

Baseball

dominant hand affect pay name successOf course I will incorporate baseball whenever applicable.  In baseball, when a pitcher strikes out, a batter it is recorded in the record books as the letter “K”.  Researchers Nelson and Simmons found that on average, batters whose name began with a “K” struck out slightly more often that those players that did not begin with a “K”.  

 

Between a potentially lower GPA and a greater rate of striking out, “Caleb” or even “Kaleb” may no longer be in the running.  

 

Name Length

Yes, the length of the name matters too.  

 

According to The Ladders, people with first names longer than five letters long lost $3,600 in salary per year, per letter.  That might mean that a man who goes by “Christopher” could potentially lose over $850,000 over the course of a 40-year career.  Crazy, huh?!

 

name successName Meanings

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much research in the area of name meanings and success, directly.  Although, I do believe what you speak over your child is critical.  If you choose a name with a strong, positive meaning that you affirm to them, that should only bolster their self-esteem and cause them to be a more successful individual.  Just my two cents though.

 

My Conclusions

Am I proving that you are doomed if you have a unique or long name?  Not at all.  While one may experience some difficulties as a result of his or her name, isn’t much of life about overcoming adversity?  I think so.  Maybe “Caleb” should be back in the running… 🙂

 

So readers, does this information surprise you?  Did the studies align with what you’ve witnessed or do you strongly disagree?  Share your thoughts below.

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63 Comments

    • Hahhahaha…I definitely had a friend change their name to be more competitive in the workplace b/c they thought it was inhabiting them. I think it worked 🙂

  1. Very interesting. The more likely to get a call because your name is “white sounding” vs someone with 8 years more experience is crazy. I expected society would favor simple names though. My company of 65 people has four Matt’s and three Dave’s.

    I like names that are simple but not common. I always liked my name, Grant, because I rarely met another one but everyone recognized the name, was only spelled one way, and everyone could pronounce the name. And Grant Hill was the man when I was kid.
    Grant @ Life Prep Couple recently posted…Why I “Choose” Free WillMy Profile

    • I actually went to high school with a guy named Grant Hill, no relation 🙂 I’ve known the other Grant Hill since I was five and interestingly enough the famous Grant Hill lived 10 minutes away from me 🙂

  2. I am glad that I chose Leo over Leonardo when I decided to change my name way back when I was in my early teen years. Leonardo may have costed me $10k per year lol.

    When I was naming my kids, I also had a difficult time agreeing with my wife as we had a few criteria such as pronunciation, meaning, uniqueness (my wife doesn’t like common or popular names), etc.. We flip flopped at least five times before we settled on a name for our son.

    Congrats on expecting a second son. Enjoy the process of choosing a name
    Leo T. Ly @ isaved5k.com recently posted…Should You Manage Your Own Investments?My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Leo!!! Sounds like you chose wisely 🙂 I am definitely a fan of unique names but clearly society does not value them the same way 🙂

  3. This is fascinating! I like how you broke this down as far as a baseball category 😉 It took Mr. Adventure Rich and I a long time to settle on our son’s name. Nothing really clicked and even when we decided, it was tentative (we didn’t tell anyone) because we wanted to meet him first before finalizing (ha! I was so tired after labor I forgot we were going to look at him first, I just went with it and said “there’s AR Jr.”). Good luck and have fun finalizing a name!
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Why I am Not Shopping Amazon Prime DayMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Mrs. Adventure Rich!!! Any opportunity I can to include fun baseball facts I try 🙂 My wife asked if we wanted to go with a Jr, but I said it wasn’t that important to me. So no Jr. for us 🙂

  4. I have to side with your wife on this one but Luke and Acts are my two favorite books of the Bible.
    It’s interesting to see the research because anacdotslly I see those things perpetuated throughout society. I’ve found myself even thinking that I automatically like someone or might not like someone just when I hear the name.

    Tom @ HIP
    High Income Parents recently posted…HIP Exam with Physician on FIREMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Tom!!! It’s interesting to see how certain names we gravitate towards. I think I read recently that the name Katelyn has been dropping in the baby lists. I wonder why…

  5. Interesting findings. Never really even thought about it but you make a lot of valid points. The child does have to go the rest of their lives with the name, so need to make sure it isn’t too ridiculous. But seems like any name you choose is a solid choice!
    Dividend Daze recently posted…Dividend Update – JuneMy Profile

  6. I’ve always viewed naming rights commensurate with the effort involved in giving birth 🙂 I asked for veto rights for anything terrible, but other than that it was all her.
    Luke will be timeless, but Caleb might be a name that sounds archaic in 20 years. I’d go with the missus on this one 🙂
    Paul recently posted…Contrarian FunMy Profile

    • Hahahhaah…I’m the same way. I have to bite my tongue especially if I don’t like it 🙂 I debated whether to share or not but thought why not!!

  7. I have a strange name for the US. Easily mispronounced and easily to point out that “I ain’t from around here”. I used to get a lot of pressure in my old job to take on an easier “American” name. It would have almost surely helped me in climbing the corporate ladder, but it was not worth it for me.

    I guess we messed up our kids name. It is 6 letters long, a common African American name in the US (though of Persian origin which is where I am from), and starts with a D. Doh!!!! Should have read this article 3 years ago when we were picking names.

    Thanks for sharing. Very cool.
    Dads Dollars Debts recently posted…Hump Day- July 12, 2017My Profile

  8. Interesting statistics. Naming a child these days is HARD but ultimately we tried our best to eliminate as many outside factors as possible and just go with our gut. Given that we still tried to keep it short and easy to pronounce/spell.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Interesting, and somewhat scary post. I know that with my girl, we chose a family name (Jon’s Mom’s maiden name) for her first name because it sounded different without being odd. But it’s become very popular in the last few years and is in the top 10 girl’s names for 2015-16 (I guess that may out her name.)
    Emily Jividen recently posted…Procrastinating My Way to Better FinancesMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Emily!!! Having just gone on the baby name list I have a feeling of what it is. I think that is a terrific name and one that I definitely like.

  10. Interesting article! I think names are extremely important. Just imagine if you went with Henrietta or Oswald – those have very poor associations. My journey has been a little odd – I was given the masculine Adrian rather than the feminine Adrienne because my father wanted a son and I think it made me much more tomboyish than normal. Plus I get the Rocky ‘yo Adrian thing at least once a week, even though it’s a 30 year old movie (a word about Luke – he will have Star Wars references FOREVER associated with him). But I have benefitted in having an unusual and memorable name – as you see, I’ve incorporated it into my website – Cathy’s Crazy Life wouldn’t have been as memorable, I don’t think. So definitely take your time and choose carefully young Paduwan…. like tattoos, names are forever!
    Adrian | Adrianscrazylife recently posted…5 Types of Best Friends Every Mompreneur NeedsMy Profile

    • I didn’t even think about the Luke reference. I clearly haven’t been paying too much attention to the latest movies. For that matter my wife has never watched a single Star Wars movie. So I may try to convince her to watch one before she tries to name our son Luke.

  11. It’s so convoluted, but it’s so true that your name can influence how people perceive you. I read about a study where they submitted identical job applications, only changing the name on one application to an ethnic-sounding name. The person with the ethnic name got no interviews, while the other person got the interviews. It’s messed up.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…How To Sell On Craigslist Without Getting MurderedMy Profile

  12. Really interesting – thanks for researching all this. Not totally surprised by the findings, knowing some of my own biases. For example, I tend to shy away from people and companies where the pronunciation isn’t immediately clear, for fear of embarrassing myself. I always feel awful if I say someone’s name incorrectly.

    One of the disadvantages to having a common first name, in conjunction with a fairly common last name, is credit report mistakes. I’ve encountered this once and it’s a huge hassle. Uncommon names definitely have an advantage there!

    • Thanks for sharing Kate!!! I didn’t even think about some of the mistakes that can happen with credit reports. We’re somewhat lucky in that our last name is uniquely spelled so that’s our one saving grace around credit reports 🙂

  13. Jeez louiz, there’s a lot of implications that comes along with naming a kid. Our kid’s name is Josiah, which is a hebrew name from the bible. We don’t know too many Josiah’s, so hopefully the rarity doesn’t negatively affect him =/ He’ll have to overcome this inherent bias! Or he can just shorten his name and go with “Jo”, lol.

  14. Our son’s name starts with an A, so based on your analysis, I hope he will get straight A’s in the future j/k :D.

    Since I’m Vietnamese, and Mr. FAF is Chinese, people have asked us if we gave Baby FAF an Asian name. Baby FAF does have a Chinese name, but his official name is American. I’ve heard a lot about the name bias, so I want him to be treated as fairly as possible when he grows up.
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…Why I Hold On To My Broken LaptopMy Profile

  15. The info that surprised me was the C’s & D’s. I guess I got lucky with an A name…and yes I always wanted A’s. Still do!

    I’ve always like the name Luke so +1 for that if you’re counting 😉

    I named my son Spenser though – unique with the spelling (I was a huge “Spenser for Hire” fan.) Luckily he likes it and has done quite well with it!

    • Thanks for stopping by Kris!!! I had no idea about the connection between K and strike outs so I definitely enjoyed reading that little factoid as well 🙂

  16. I’m Indian, my husband is not. When Toddler BITA was getting ready for her debut into this world, we decided we wanted an Indian name, but an easy, short one – one that the non-Indian side of her family would not mutilate.

    My name is both long and unique. A google search of my first name yields me. Every hit on the first page is actually me. I’ve always enjoyed that, even though it has apparently rendered me both unlikeable and poorer over the years.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…Ten FIRE Games to Pass the TimeMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Mrs. BITA!!! My wife’s family is Persian and she also wanted a name that her family could say easily. Definitely makes life a lot easier when both sides of the family can say the name with no problem.

  17. Nooooooo…this is all bad news to me!!! I’m a Xiao, no wonder I got no job call backs! And OMG those are the exact two names I was thinking. Different spelling of Luke but yeah. Luke, Caleb and Ethan are such adorable names. Argh!

    I wonder how last name effect things. My husband’s last name is French and I found that if I use Lily Prudhomme I get better responses than Lily He. More people reply to my inquires on Craigslist and my husband notices that too.
    Lily @ The Frugal Gene recently posted…12 Things I Stopped Buying That’s Saving Me Money & The PlanetMy Profile

  18. Interesting information! Thanks for sharing! I will say that having a last name that starts with a letter near the end of the alphabet often had downsides, but I never thought much about my first name.

    My husband’s name is Caleb and other than people periodically trying to spell it with a K, he has generally liked his name (which until recently he didn’t know many other Calebs).

    And at the end of the day, I think having two loving parents in a functional and supportive relationship will go a long way, so I wouldn’t stress too much about the name 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing!!! I think picking out names is one of the really fun parts of expecting. Endless opportunities to pick out great names. We’ll see what it ends up but my wife has been tallying up all the votes for Luke and letting me know 🙂

  19. My son’s name is Caleb and we love it! We actually chose it *because* it means dog. Our older son’s name means stubborn, wise, dog lover and we thought it was a special connection to then have his little brother’s name mean dog. I stumbled upon Caleb’s name in a baby book and liked it before I knew what it meant. The thought of him then being defined as a loving, faithful, loyal person (among many other fine qualities of dogs) drove it home. It’s all in the perspective I guess. 😉 For what it’s worth my little guy is the most loving, thoughtful, polite and brilliant person. He lights up our family, and I have no doubt that he will soar in life.

    • Thanks for sharing Caleb’s Mom. I am so happy someone came to the defense of Caleb. I’m a big fan also because Caleb was one of the original 12 spies of Israel. Thought that was pretty cool 🙂

  20. I have worked in HR and Recruiting for a long time. Off the record, other HR professionals have shared with me that they overlooked prospects who had a name they could not pronounce. They did not want to embarrass themselves by mispronouncing their name during a phone call. It might not be ethical or legal, but I have heard that comment many times.
    Dave recently posted…Locus of ControlMy Profile

  21. I was 17 years old when I legally changed my name, the whole thing, first, last, middle to Morning Azule Waters. Two sisters (out of 3) also changed their name legally and now my mother prefers to be called and introduced at Toby. I continue to wonder if the name changed me. It certainly has created interesting conversations during the past 43 years.

  22. My name is longer than what I use to post comments. In the previous state I lived in, it had more letters than boxes on the driver’s license form, yet you had to state your legal name. Then stores insist on using your DL to set up your account. My phone bill, cable & one of my store credit cards are in the shortened version of my name. Turns out the cable company used it to sell my info and I got all kinds of spam, that I could identify as coming from them, because of their unique truncation. The name length experiences have me sure I’ll choose something shorter for any kids I might have. 🙂
    I got tired of work assigning my email address based on my full name, and in my last round of job searching, changed my resume to my preferred nick name. Hooray for now going by my name, and not my “in trouble with mom name”. 🙂
    I’m named after my grandmothers, which is very cool, but it irks me then when people spell it wrong.
    As I have more friends identifying as non-binary or transgendered, I continue to be a fan of gender neutral names. Alex, Chris, Sam etc (Some of which I’ve used as pseudonyms in the past). Or names with multiple nick name options.
    I think Luke is a great name and I like your reasoning. Would you consider Caleb as the middle name?

    • Thanks for stopping by Jacq!!! Isn’t it funny how parents use our full names when we’re in trouble 🙂 .

      I’ll definitely have to talk to my wife about Caleb as a middle name. I don’t think she’ll go for it but I am definitely going to try 🙂

  23. I think this is definitely true. They have done a number of studies where people have sent out different resumes of unique names and regular ones. The regular names generally get an interview. Those that have unique ones, even with better credentials don’t. BTW, Jason is a great name….and of a Greek Hero 😉 http://www.businessinsider.com/how-your-name-affects-your-success-2015-8/#if-you-have-a-white-sounding-name-youre-more-likely-to-get-hired-4
    Jason recently posted…If You Can Afford a Vacation You Can Afford to InvestMy Profile

  24. Have you ever read Freakonomics? There’s a whole section about names and the affect they can have on a person’s life, though you also have to take into account other factors. For example, there was a couple that wanted to name their daughter after one of the actresses from The Cosby Show, Tempestt Bledsoe. Unfortunately they misunderstood and named her Temptress. Not the best name for a young girl.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the girl had a bit of a troubled life. But the question is: did she have a troubled life because of her unusual name, or because she was raised by parents who would give a child that kind of name?

    • Thanks for sharing Mike!!! Freakonomics is such a great book and I probably should have added that I read it years ago in the post. Definitely a classic!!!

  25. In choosing names for my children I wanted something that could be pronounced without assistance (I’ve spent my life correcting people although I could always tell if a telemarketer was calling because they mispronounced my name). I also wanted something that wasn’t too common, but on the other hand, not unheard of. I also felt the mother should have priority in naming because she is the one giving birth. Also, give a middle name and then the child has a choice if they dislike the first name you picked. So Luke Caleb in your case.

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