A graphical history of names

I came across a super-cool website today.  I've long been intrigued by statistics on baby names, since, oh, at least 1999 or so.  The Social Security Administration has long maintained a webpage with interesting data (and much enhanced since I used it in our baby name searching in 1999).  Today, I discovered the NameVoyager at the baby name wizard.  Type in a name and the site graphically traces the popularity of the name since the 1990's.  I couldn't resist playing around with all sorts of names.  For example, you can see the recent increase in the popularity of Old Testament names (e.g., Noah, Joshua, even Ezekiel).  Or the dramatic decline of names– Bertha was actually a top 10 name in the 1890's, but it is not even in the top 1000 now.  Or discover that Jessica– the #1 name in the 1980's– seems to have been a fad and is in a rather steep decline, unlike Ashley, another popular 80's name holding on much better.  I could go on.  Have some fun with it yourself.  Or, just consider me a hopeless loser who needs to get to work.

Why are conservatives happier– the answer

A while back I wrote about the findings that conservatives seem to be happier than liberals and offered a little speculation on the matter.  One of the (many) reasons that John Jost is a better social scientist than me is that he actually went out and found the answer.  From the recently published paper, “Why are Conservatives Happier than Liberals?”

Napier, Jaime L., and John T. Jost. 2008. Why are conservatives happier than liberals? Psychological Science 19, 6 (June): 565-572.

Abstract: In this
research, we drew on system-justification theory and the notion that
conservative ideology serves a palliative function to explain why
conservatives are happier than liberals. Specifically, in three studies
using nationally representative data from the United States and nine
additional countries, we found that right-wing (vs. left-wing)
orientation is indeed associated with greater subjective well-being and
that the relation between political orientation and subjective
well-being is mediated by the rationalization of inequality. In our
third study, we found that increasing economic inequality (as measured
by the Gini index) from 1974 to 2004 has exacerbated the happiness gap
between liberals and conservatives, apparently because conservatives
(more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative
hedonic effects of economic inequality.

One way of looking at this is that liberals are less happy because they are bothered by others' unhappiness; conservatives, not so much.  Of course, there's something to be said for an ideological buffer to make you happy.  One of my favorite findings from psychology is that depressed people actually have a more accurate view of themselves then persons who are not depressed.

The economic impact of “sounding Black”

Via Freakonomics author, Steven Levitt:

Fascinating new research by my University of Chicago colleague, Jeffrey Grogger, compares the wages of people who ?sound black? when they talk to those who do not.

His main finding: blacks who ?sound black? earn salaries that are 10
percent lower than blacks who do not ?sound black,? even after
controlling for measures of intelligence, experience in the work force,
and other factors that influence how much people earn. (For what it is
worth, whites who ?sound black? earn 6 percent lower than other whites.)

How does Grogger know who ?sounds black?? As part of a large longitudinal study called the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, follow-up validation interviews were conducted over the phone and recorded.

Grogger was able to take these phone interviews, purge them of any
identifying information, and then ask people to try to identify the
voices as to whether the speaker was black or white. The listeners were
pretty good at distinguishing race through voices: 98 percent of the
time they got the gender of the speaker right, 84 percent of white
speakers were correctly identified as white, and 77 percent of black
speakers were correctly identified as black.

Grogger asked multiple listeners to rate each voice and assigned the
voice either to a distinctly white or black category (if the listeners
all tended to agree on the race), or an indistinct category if there
was disagreement.

Then he put this measure of whether a voice sounded black into a
regression (the standard statistical tool that economists use for
estimating things), and came up with the finding that blacks who ?sound
black? earn almost 10 percent less, even after taking into account
other factors that could influence earnings. One piece of interesting
good news is that blacks who do not ?sound black? earn essentially the
same as whites.

Apparently, there was a negative impact for Southern accents as well, but the measures were less precise as that was not the focus of the study. 

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