Will Hispanic Names Surge Among Whites Through 2014?

I just read an interesting if true article by Belly Ballot published in Hispanic Business which claims that the number of Caucasians who give their babies Hispanic names is growing. The reason I am skeptical: Even though the Spanish-speaking population has been rising in the U.S. for decades,  the popularity of Hispanic names (as measured by the Social Security Administration) has been declining.

I found only five Hispanic girls’ names on the SSA’s top-1000 list. Of those names, two increased in popularity while three decreased in popularity vs. the previous year. I found a lot more Hispanic boys’ names on the top-1000 list: 25 in all. Of those names, four increased in popularity while twenty-one decreased in popularity vs. the previous year.

It may seem puzzling that while the number of Hispanics in the U.S. has increased steadily over the years, the popularity of Hispanic names has declined. Apparently, it is increasingly popular for Hispanics to choose “American” names for their children, for practical reasons. Many Hispanics have figured out that giving their children “American” names improves their children’s chances of becoming assimilated into American culture and achieving success in school–which leads to success in the job market and financial success.

That’s why the trend reported by Belly Ballot (that Caucasians are increasingly giving their children Hispanic names) is so surprising. It’s not supported by the overall popularity trends reported by the Social Security Administration.  Fact is, the number of Caucasians giving their children Hispanic names has neither offset nor reversed the overall downtrend in the popularity of Hispanic Names in the U.S.

But even though the trend reported by Belly Ballot may not be statistically significant, I found the reasons Caucasians give for selecting Hispanic names (cited in the article) quite interesting. As you’ll see Caucasians who live near Hispanics or work with Hispanics want their children to fit in with and be accepted by Hispanics. (As you’ll see, the reasons Caucasian parents give for picking Hispanic names for their children are as practical as the reasons an increasing number of Hispanic parents are picking Caucasian names for their babies).

“Hispanic culture is growing rapidly here in Tennessee,” said Tiffany Wilson, whose ancestry is Irish and German. Her daughter’s friends are Hispanic, her future bosses will be Hispanic… “We just don’t want her to be different. I think having a Latino name has helped her make friends.”

“Having a Hispanic name can open the doors of opportunity.” said Shaina Heimpel of Colorado Springs, who named her daughter Isabella. “I did well in school with a 3.5 GPA … but doors didn’t open, there were no scholarships for someone like me,” she said. “My Hispanic friends, on the other hand, got scholarships and grants. Isabella will now have every opportunity available to her, and not go through what I did. Although she’s already a quarter Hispanic, that name is the only thing I can do for her that will pave the way for her life.”

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