Baby Names and Discrimination

What should you name your baby boy? Patrick McDougall.

In many places you can give your kid a different last name than your own when signing a birth certificate, but that’s beside the point. When thinking of a name for your child, did it occur to you it would be a source of discrimination in his or her adult life?

A study by Oregon State University recently published in the April 2006 issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology revealed people with ethnic-sounding names (read: non-white) face discrimination in the rental housing market.

More than 1,100 identical inquiries were e-mailed to Los Angeles-area landlords signed with the names Patrick McDougall, Tyrell Jackson or Said Al-Rahman — stereotypical Caucasian, African-American and Arab-American names chosen based on US Census Bureau rankings of popular first and last names.

Here is the percentage of positive responses received for each name:

  • 89% Patrick McDougall
  • 66% Said Al-Rahman
  • 56% Tyrell Jackson

Yep, even after September 11th, people are still more biased against blacks than Arabs. Those results surprised the researchers, too. The study didn’t look at other ethnicities such as Asians or Latinos, but I suppose I dodged a bullet when my wife refused to let me name our daughter Gamera.

"Names are powerful indicators of who we are," according to the study’s lead author, Adrian Carpusor. "They may
disclose our religious affiliation, sex, social position, ethnic
background, tribal affiliation and even age."

Post a comment

(will not be published)