Names on the Map

March 27, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

The National Geographic has an interactive map (here) of the most frequent names in the US.  Here is our mid-Atlantic region.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

It’s tempting to read the names as a proxy for ethnicity, as the color coding implies.  The green Kelly and Murphy show that those are those common Irish names.  But what about the Williamses?  On the map, they’re all Welsh blue.  But in person, their color is not nearly so uniform.  I doubt that Juan (of Fox News) and Deron (of the Nets) trace their ancestry back to Wales.  (However, National Geographic does make some distinctions.  The Lees in the central part of the map are Chinese.  The Lees further down the coast are English.  National Geographic counts Martin as Spanish in California but English in other parts of the country. )

I’d also like to see an interactive map that showed the change in ethnic concentrations over time.  When I first started teaching at Montclair a few decades ago, I used to joke that on my class list, the C-Cathys were Italian, and the K-Kathys were Irish, and that accounted for a lot of the class.  This semester, more than a quarter of my students have Hispanic surnames, though not the more popular Rodriguez and Gonzalez on the map, and they far outnumber the Italian and Irish. 

HT: Ezra Klein, where I found this link.

1 comment:

PCM said...

I don't what year it was, but probably some time in the 1970s my father noted when Asian Lee's outnumbered white Lee's among the students in his classes.