From the Calgary Herald:
For Pete’s sake: a name means something when it comes to crime
Cheryl Chan, Canwest News Service
VANCOUVER – What’s in a name? Possibly a life of crime.
An unpopular name – like Alec, Ernest, Ivan, or Malcolm – is more likely to spell trouble than favourites Michael, Matthew or Christopher, according to research presented Saturday at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of B.C.
“There is a positive correlation between unpopular first names and juvenile delinquency,” said Daniel Lee, an economics professor at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
His study, the first to examine the link between names and crime, compiled the first names of all males born between 1987 and 1991 in a large unnamed American state, and calculated a Popularity Name Index, or PNI, for each of the 15,021 unique names.
Michael, the most popular name, had a PNI of 100 while David, a name given half as frequently, had a 50 PNI.
The study then compared the names and their popularity ratings to the first names of male youth in the juvenile justice system from 1997 to 2005.
Using regression models, Lee and co-author David Kalist found that regardless of race, the more unique, rare and unpopular the name is, the more likely it popped up in youth crime files 10 to 18 years later.
While half of the names in the state population have a PNI of 20 or more, half the names of the juvenile population have a PNI greater than 11.
Lee calculated that for every 10 per cent increase in the popularity of a name, there is an associated 3.7 per cent decrease in the number of troublemaking kids with that name.
However, research also showed that the PNI of a juvenile’s name is also associated with other factors, such as socio-economic conditions and family structure.
“The PNI is positively associated when the kid is living with both parents and negatively associated when living only with the mother,” said Lee, adding that juveniles with more unpopular names also tended to live in the state’s more disadvantaged counties.
The findings indicate that while the popularity of a juvenile’s name has a correlation with crime, it doesn’t necessarily cause the crime, said Lee.
“We’re arguing it’s not the name per se, that causes the juvenile to behave badly, but it’s the family background,” he said.
So, for parents who are already stressed out trying to find the perfect name for their kid, Lee has a word of advice: “It’s all right to give unique names to your children, but make sure you become a good parent.”