Immigrant Baby Names = Sign of Assimilation?

My maternal grandparents were Italian, but they didn’t choose Italian names for their American-born children. Similarly, my Cambodian parents-in-law didn’t choose Cambodian names for the two children they had in America — though the two kids they’d already had do indeed possess Cambodian names.

It seems that the pattern still holds true today, at least somewhat. A recent San Francisco Chronicle article by Stephen Steinberg cites a study of immigrant baby names in New York City. According to this study, conducted in 2005, the top baby names chosen by Hispanic and Asian immigrants were…

  • Hispanic girls: Ashley, Emily, Isabella, Jennifer, Mia
  • Hispanic boys: Angel, Anthony, Christopher, Justin, Joshua
  • Asian girls: Emily, Sophia, Nicole, Michelle, Rachel
  • Asian boys: Ryan, Jason, Kevin, Daniel, Justin

With the exception of Angel (which is pronounced AHN-hel in Spanish) none of the above names are overtly “ethnic”-sounding.

On the other hand, though, a slew of non-English baby names — like Giancarlo, Giovanna, Gonzalo, Guadalupe, Guillermo, and Gustavo — are currently ranked in the U.S. top 1,000. (The declining rate of cross-cultural marriage in the U.S. may have something to do with this.) The popularity of these names makes it hard to deduce what immigrant parents are really opting for: Do most prefer “American” names, or names from their own languages/cultures?

One thought on “Immigrant Baby Names = Sign of Assimilation?

  1. I think it’s more of a realization that parents want their children to ‘fit in’ so to speak and having a cultural name, while respecting their heritage, would make the children less likely to be accepted. Maybe the parents are also trying to avoid a future of their child constantly having to spell their name, how to pronouce it or what it means.

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