The Shorter Your Name, The Larger Your Salary: Research Report

I knew that women earned less than men and that people of color earned less than Caucasians. But I had no idea that people with long names earned less than people with short names. The research for this finding was reported by Daniel  Cronyn of The Ladders who crunched data from 6 million members to find out how names and income might be correlated. Here are some interesting findings as it relates to the length of names and salary:

-The Ladders found an inverse correlation between the number of letters in names and the salary those individuals earned.

-More specifically, they found that salary decreases $3,600 per year for every additional letter in your name. (For example, when you compare Bill vs. William there are three more letters in William than in Bill, so Bill can be expected to make about $10,800 more than William.)

-And, when they compared nicknames to given names (e.g., Chris vs. Christopher; and Debbie vs. Deborah) they found that people with shorter names earned more in 23 out of 24 (formal name vs. nickname) pairings they tested.

After crunching millions of numbers, I was very surprised to read The Ladders’ erroneous conclusion:“In conclusion, it DOES make a difference what your mother named you. So, to all prospective mothers, our advice is to keep Baby’s name short and sweet – your child will thank you when they’re raking in the money one day.” Wrong! They completely missed the point.

It doesn’t matter what your mother named you. It matters which version of your name you choose to go by at work. (If your mother named you Elizabeth, you will earn more money if you encourage your colleagues to call you Liz; and likewise for Stephen and Steve.)  To be clear, they proved that the version of the name you go by when you take a job affects your chances for success (as measured by your salary). People who “go by” their “formal” names, earn less than they would if they went by their (shorter) nicknames.

I can think of two practical reasons why women and people of different ethnicity, national origin or color earn less than men and Caucasians:

1) When men and women or people of different ethnicity, national origin or color take different kinds of jobs (e.g., field work vs. office work or clerical job vs. a management position) the comparisons (for research purposes) are not what you’d call “apples to apples.”

2)  But, when men and women or people of different ethnicity, national origin or color take the same kinds of jobs, the most likely explanation for a different salary is probably discrimination.

Before reading the research results (to the effect that a guy named Bill would earn more money than a guy named William), I would have guessed the opposite–thinking that William is a more upscale, professional-sounding name hence it is more likely to be used by a well-paid executive than Bill. But now that I know that research clearly supports the finding that men named Bill and women named Debbie earn more money than men named William and women named Deborah, I can think of a reasonable rationale to support that finding (which is the opposite of what I thought, originally).

Here’s my new rationale: People with shorter names earn more than people with longer names because shorter, more informal names are easier to pronounce and spell and are also more accessible to people throughout the company. More to the point, having a short, informal name helps you come across as more approachable and less stand-offish (whether you are a man or women; whether you are white or black or brown or yellow).

So, don’t thank your mother if she gave you a short name. Don’t curse your mother if she gave you a long name. Choose a short, accessible version of your name to use at work. That will help you get along with people at work and, based on the research findings, it is likely to increase your take-home pay.

FYI I found a post about The Ladders’ research report on Nancy’sBabyNames.com. It’s a great place to look for fascinating information and stories about names.

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