Monday, April 11, 2005

Economics: A Roshanda by Any Other Name

Interesting entry on the use of unique names amongst the African American community in California is at Slate.

Nearly 30 percent of the black girls are given a name that is unique among every baby, white and black, born that year in California. (There were also 228 babies named Unique during the 1990s alone, and one each of Uneek, Uneque, and Uneqqee; virtually all of them were black.)
The data show that, on average, a person with a distinctively black name—whether it is a woman named Imani or a man named DeShawn—does have a worse life outcome than a woman named Molly or a man named Jake. But it isn't the fault of his or her name. If two black boys, Jake Williams and DeShawn Williams, are born in the same neighborhood and into the same familial and economic circumstances, they would likely have similar life outcomes. But the kind of parents who name their son Jake don't tend to live in the same neighborhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of parents who name their son DeShawn. And that's why, on average, a boy named Jake will tend to earn more money and get more education than a boy named DeShawn. DeShawn's name is an indicator—but not a cause—of his life path.
Maybe if all of us white med students name our kids with unique black names we can combat this biased name statistic. A new series of Jewish power names: DeShawn Zuckerman has a certain ring to it.

3 comments:

michael said...

i don't forsee a "deshawn zuckerman" surviving junior high school, let alone making more money. nothing personal - just that name would be reason enough to get the shit beaten out of you.

Steve said...

How about Lafanda Hong?

michael said...

no thanks, one riot per generation is plenty.