First Names and Crime: Does Unpopularity Spell Trouble?


  • *Direct correspondence to David E. Kalist, Department of Economics, Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Dr., Shippensburg, PA 17257 〈〉. The authors are unable to share the data used in this study due to a confidentiality agreement. The authors are grateful to session participants at the conference of the Canadian Economics Association for their helpful comments. They also thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.


Objective. We investigate the relationship between first name popularity and juvenile delinquency to test the hypothesis that unpopular names are positively correlated with crime.

Methods. To compare the names of juveniles in a state's population with the names of juveniles who received substantiated charges in that state's juvenile justice system, we construct a popularity name index. Regression analysis is used to examine the relationship among names, crime, and socioeconomic background of juveniles.

Results. The distribution of first names in the state's population is different from the names of juvenile delinquents. Our results show that unpopular names are positively correlated with juvenile delinquency for both blacks and whites.

Conclusions. Unpopular names are likely not the cause of crime but correlated with factors that increase the tendency toward juvenile delinquency, such as a disadvantaged home environment and residence in a county with low socioeconomic status.