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The Most Successful Baby Names, According to Science

by Jacqueline Burt Cote
Originally Published: 

Parents have a million factors to consider when they're choosing a baby name: Does it flow with the family surname? Will kids at school turn it into a mean rhyme? Did you once have an arch enemy with the same name? One thing you might not consider is how your child's name will influence her level of success in life — after all, some of the most successful people have unconventional names (um, Oprah?). But research shows that certain monikers do seem to have more prestige than others. So what are the most successful baby names, according to science?

Experts have approached the question of whether or not certain names are linked with prosperity from a variety of angles, and their methods have produced some very interesting results. One study by Verdant Labs, makers of a baby name research app, used public records to chart "disproportionately common names by profession," as the Washington Post reported. While actual earnings weren't taken into account, the professions themselves could be considered a somewhat consistent barometer for future success... but of course, success can be tricky to predict when it comes to certain jobs. Take the name "Hannah," for example, which was found to be common among poets. The career of a poet could look like that of Maya Angelou, or it could just as easily mean years of perfecting one's latte milk art as a barista while desperately trying to get published.

Other research from UCLA studied which names "leverage other people's biases," according to Inc., rendering them "more likely to make other people respect them at first meeting, and assume that they are successful, throughout their lives." These biases, researchers theorized, could lead to more opportunities (resulting in greater success).

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but would a Steven by any other name make as much money? Maybe not. Still, if your goal is to start your baby on the path to success before he even leaves the hospital, here are some names to put on your list, pronto.



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Speaking of Steven, according to the research from UCLA cited above, this classic was at the top of the list of successful names for boys. Assuming "Stephen" is just as successful a name, there are quite a few prominent individuals who come to mind right away: Steve Jobs, Stevie Wonder, Steven Tyler, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Stephen King, Stephen Hawking... you get the idea.



Topping the same UCLA list for girls: Jacqueline. As a real life Jacqueline who has yet to write a bestseller or win the lottery, I'm ever-so-slightly resistant to this claim, but one can't deny the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis effect.



In 2011, LinkedIn analyzed the connection between first names and career choices, and found that on their site, the #1 name for male CEOs was Peter. Who knew? They might not be CEOs, but there are certainly plenty of well-known Peters around (Peter Dinklage, Peter Jackson, Peter O'Toole, Peter Frampton, etc.).



From the same LinkedIn analysis came the equivalent revelation regarding female CEOs, the majority of whom were apparently named Deborah. Not a terribly common name otherwise, this is somewhat curious. Unless perhaps there's some sort of subconscious connection to the name's meaning, which happens to be "bee," according to Baby Name Wizard. (As in, Queen Bee? Or busy bee?)



The research from UCLA placed Ross in second place on their list of most successful male names, which, again, is interesting because it's not a terribly common name. Could this have something to do with Ross being one of the most successful Friends?



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Coming in at second place on UCLA's list of successful names for females, Morgan has an undeniably powerful vibe, and with good reason: The name is a variant of Morrigan, the name of the Celtic Triple Goddess associated with birth and death (and ravens), as explained. Morgan works for successful men, too, of course, as Morgan Freeman proves.



While Sanford doesn't make a showing on the list from UCLA, it does show up as a common name in two generally well-paid professions in the chart from Verdant: Surgeon and Judge. Oddly enough, there was no mention of "junk shop owners" on the list.



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Now here's a name that isn't particularly surprising to see at #3 on the list from UCLA: Elizabeth is the kind of name that brings to mind queens and authors and significant historical figures of all kinds, really. It's just one of those names that truly never goes out of style.

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