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Can a name really affect my child's future?

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Parents devote enormous amounts of energy to choosing the right baby name, weighing the pros and cons of just the right amount of unusual without taking it too far. But how important is this choice in the grand scheme of things? Can the name you choose actually impact your child's future? We sifted through some of the latest research to help you make sense of the statistics.

In short, yes


Baby names absolutely do affect how the world will perceive your child. The names we choose say more about ourselves than our offspring. They can hint at political affiliations, socioeconomic status, race and general life philosophies. All of these affect how people perceive our children.

David Figlio, a researcher from the National Bureau of Economic Research, has performed countless studies on the impact of names on how a child is received throughout his life. For example, he found that boys given feminine names were far more likely to be disruptive in school. Though Figlio admits the correlation does not imply causation, it stands to reason, in a culture that continues to see masculinity as strength, that boys with feminine names are picked on more frequently and lash out as a result.

On the flip side of the same coin, Bentley Coffey from the Department of Economics at Clemson University found that female lawyers with masculine names were favored over those with feminine names when it came to becoming judges. Several other studies corroborate this finding — giving your daughter a unisex or masculine name gives her a boost in public opinion.

The sad thing about assumptions is that they don't have to be fair or correct to have an effect.

So what is a parent to do in the face of mounting research that the names we choose will affect our children's futures? Parenting matters far more than anything else, but we cannot discount the effect of the public's perception. A name with an unusual spelling suggests several things about the parents, and sadly none of them are positive. Plenty of well-educated, intelligent parents give their children unusually spelled names, but that's not what Kwincee screams on a resume.

If you put a lot of stock in names as measures of success, researchers recommend you stick to the following two rules: choose classic names that have been around more than 100 years, and spell those names with the most common spellings.

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Photo credit: kennytyy/Flickr

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