Background information for popular names
HistoryIn 1998, the Social Security Administration published Actuarial Note #139, Name Distributions in the Social Security Area, August 1997, on the distribution of given names of Social Security number holders. The note, written by actuary Michael W. Shackleford, gave birth to the present website.
Data SourceAll names are from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States after 1879. Note that many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data. For others who did apply, our records may not show the place of birth, and again their names are not included in our data.
All data are from a 100% sample of our records on Social Security card applications as of March 2020.
Data qualificationsPeople using our data on popular names are urged to explicitly acknowledge the following qualifications.
- Names are restricted to cases where the year of birth, sex, State of birth (50 States and District of Columbia) are on record, and where the given name is at least 2 characters long.
- Name data are tabulated from the "First Name" field of the Social Security Card Application. Hyphens and spaces are removed, thus Julie-Anne, Julie Anne, and Julieanne will be counted as a single entry.
- Name data are not edited. For example, the sex associated with a name may be incorrect. Entries such as "Unknown" and "Baby" are not removed from the lists.
- Different spellings of similar names are not combined. For example, the names Caitlin, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelyn, and Katelynn are considered separate names and each has its own rank.
- When two different names are tied with the same frequency for a given year of birth, we break the tie by assigning rank in alphabetical order.
- Some names are applied to both males and females (for example, Micah). Our rankings are done by sex, so that a name such as Micah will have a different rank for males as compared to females. When you seek the popularity of a specific name (see "Popularity of a Name"), you can specify the sex. If you do not specify the sex, we provide rankings for the more popular name-sex combination.
- To safeguard privacy, we exclude from our tabulated lists of names those that would indicate, or would allow the ability to determine, names with fewer than 5 occurrences in any geographic area. If a name has less than 5 occurrences for a year of birth in any state, the sum of the state counts for that year will be less than the national count.
As an exception to the restriction that births be in the United States, we provide popular names for births in U. S. territories. The data on births in U. S. territories are not included in our national data.