Years ago, I wrote about a study by David Figlio that found girls with very feminine names are less likely to study science.
I hadn’t read the study — it hadn’t been published yet — but I wondered how much of that outcome could be blamed on parental bias:
To me, it seems just as likely that parents who bestow ultra-feminine names have different views on gender than those who prefer masculine-sounding girl names. Therefore, couldn’t underlying parental bias be the root cause of both the names and the attitudes toward science?
About a week ago, I found the following in a post on baby names at the TIME Healthland blog:
When Figlio studied sisters who were both good at math, he discovered that those with more linguistically feminine names were more likely to shy away from math and science and stick with humanities classes compared to their siblings with linguistically androgynous names. If you’re set on your daughter Anastasia becoming a doctor, you’ll have to be extra vigilant to fight any cultural stereotypes. “She may become the English major and her sister, Jordan, may become the bio major,” says Figlio. “That’s happening at rates that are too big to ignore.”
If this is the same study, then my parental bias theory is out the window. :)
Here’s what Figlio told the John Tierney of the TierneyLab blog about a year after my post:
In correlational analysis…one must always be concerned that there is some third factor that could be associated with both the name and the outcome. My work on siblings directly studies kids from the same families but who happen to have linguistically different names. (There is a third paper, “Why Barbie Says ‘Math is Hard,’ that shows that sisters with less linguistically-feminine names are more likely to take advanced math and science courses.)
Just out of curiosity, do you know of any sister-sets in which one sister is a math/science person and the other is not? If so, what are their names?