Guess the state by its popular names

I’m messing around with some Social Security baby name data, preparing examples for the upcoming Humanities Hackathon at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, where I’ll be teaching a one-day course on networks and graphs.

So here’s a quiz.  I give a list of baby names which were strongly overrepresented among babies born in state X in 2011.  You name the state.

  1. [‘Jamison’, ‘Keagan’, ‘Nolan’, ‘Cullen’, ‘Finley’, ‘Dane’, ‘Bennett’, ‘Clay’, ‘Clayton’, ‘Sullivan’]
  2. [‘Santiago’, ‘Roberto’, ‘Iker’, ‘Alberto’, ‘Joe’, ‘Jose’, ‘Arturo’, ‘Gael’, ‘Armando’, ‘Raul’, ‘Gustavo’, ‘Juan’, ‘Mauricio’, ‘Julio’]
  3. [‘Francis’, ‘Nasir’, ‘Semaj’, ‘Shane’]
  4. [‘Ivan’, ‘Ismael’, ‘Edgar’, ‘Uriel’, ‘Francisco’, ‘Ramon’, ‘Damian’, ‘Gerardo’, ‘Emiliano’, ‘Sergio’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Esteban’, ‘Joaquin’, ‘Ernesto’, ‘Cesar’, ‘Moises’, ‘Diego’, ‘Ruben’, ‘Maximiliano’, ‘Johnny’]
  5. [‘Brendan’, ‘Conor’, ‘Seamus’, ‘Ronan’, ‘Theodore’, ‘Jadiel’, ‘Jacoby’]
  6. [‘Lawson’, ‘Khalil’, ‘Jamari’, ‘Chandler’, ‘Brantley’, ‘Cason’, ‘Davis’, ‘Braylen’, ‘Mekhi’]
  7. [‘Trenton’, ‘Remington’, ‘Kale’, ‘Dayton’, ‘Blaine’, ‘Clark’, ‘Karter’, ‘Jase’, ‘Lane’, ‘Gunner’]
  8. [‘Alonzo’, ‘Zaiden’, ‘Ezekiel’, ‘Trace’, ‘Orion’, ‘Cruz’, ‘Asher’, ‘Milo’, ‘Brodie’, ‘Jonas’, ‘Finley’, ‘Soren’, ‘Archer’, ‘Kellan’, ‘Ryker’, ‘Dillon’, ‘Zane’, ‘Kade’, ‘Nash’, ‘Kian’, ‘Cyrus’, ‘River’, ‘Uriah’, ‘Porter’]
  9. [‘Muhammad’, ‘Ali’, ‘Ahmed’, ‘Mohamed’, ‘Moshe’, ‘Aron’, ‘Solomon’, ‘Mohammed’, ‘Justin’, ‘Alvin’, ‘Mohammad’, ‘Wilson’, ‘Abraham’, ‘Ibrahim’]

Hint:  most of these are pretty big states, and one of them is Wisconsin.

Hint 2:  Knowing about football will help you with one of these and knowing about baseball with another.

I think these are pretty hard.

Answers below the fold:

  1. Wisconsin.  “Dane” is a county here, and “Clay” is huge thanks to Packers star Clay Mathews.
  2. Texas.  One of two big states very rich in Spanish names.  “Iker” is a surprise; it’s a Basque name, and Wikipedia tells me there are many more Basques in California than in Texas.
  3. Pennsylvania.  “Semaj” is “James” spelled backwards, but why this is a differentially likely neonym in Penna. is a mystery to me.
  4. California.  The other big state with a strong Spanish name presence.  The relative strength of “Cesar” probably recalls Cesar Chavez, and “Diego” and “Joaquin” are attached to CA place names.
  5. Massachusetts.  Irish people and Jacoby Ellsbury.
  6. Georgia.  The names suggest a large black population, and “Brantley” and “Chandler” have an Old South feel.
  7. Missouri.  Note “Remington” and “Gunner.”  “Colt” is popular in MO, too, though not enough to make this list.  People in Missouri like naming kids after guns.
  8. Colorado.  This just seems totally right to me, though I would have had a hard time guessing it.
  9. New York.  “Moshe.”
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11 thoughts on “Guess the state by its popular names

  1. F says:

    some guesses:
    5 – Massachusetts (very Irish)
    7 – New Jersey (who would name their child Trenton?!)
    9 – New York (with all the Jewish names, although I didn’t think Muslims were also overrepresented there)
    2 – Texas
    4 – Florida (because Cubans probably aren’t going for ‘Raul’?)
    8 – Utah, or somewhere else out west (who knows)
    1 – Wisconsin, because it sounds generic
    3 – Michigan (no idea)
    6 – Arizona (no idea)

  2. Richard Séguin says:

    Aren’t most of these names associated with male gender? Why is that? Why would overrepresented names be mostly male? Anyway, I resent the comment by F that the names in group 1 might be associated with Wisconsin because they sound “generic.”

  3. Bobito says:

    Too hard.

    My guesses:

    9. Michigan
    3. New York
    2. Florida
    5. Massachusetts.
    6. Georgia
    8. California
    1. Texas (Nolan, Clay)
    4. Arizona
    7. Wisconsin

  4. JSE says:

    Sorry, I should have said, these are drawn from a data set of boys’ names only.

  5. JSE says:

    F got 4 out of 9, pretty good! Bobito got 2. Both are right that #5 is Massachusetts (the tip-off being lots of Irish names plus “Jacoby,” for Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.)

  6. Ari says:

    “Iker”‘s popularity is probably due to Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

  7. berseliusx says:

    I think “Dane” is far more likely to reference former Badgers star Ron Dayne than anyone naming kids after Dane county.

  8. JSE says:

    So you might think, but “Dane” gets popular in WI starting in the early 80s, when Ron Dayne was in elementary school, and continued being reasonably popular (about 20 Danes a year) ever since. There’s a recent bump into the 30s which takes place mostly after Dayne’s retirement.

  9. Bobito says:

    I’ve lived long term in three US states. Two of them are Georgia and Massachusetts (the two I got right).

  10. Noa says:

    Pennsylvania’s “Shane” might have to do with Philadelphia Phillies’ Shane Victornio.

  11. Dave says:

    3/9 (TX, MA, NY). Also had FL instead of CA for #4, and MI for #3 (because of Nasir). I guess a lot of the names overrepresented in CO are due to the Mormon population there.

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