The Top Baby Names in Maryland in 2011?

Maryland’s Open Data website includes a single table of Maryland baby name rankings (2011) broken down by race/ethnic group. This is cool because New York City does the exact same breakdown, and we happen to have the equivalent NYC baby name rankings (2011). So we ought to be able to compare and contrast the two sets of rankings, right?

Yeah, that’s what I thought…until I started looking more closely at Maryland’s data.

According to the SSA, these were the top 10 boy names in Maryland in 2011:

  1. Mason
  2. Jacob
  3. Michael
  4. Ethan
  5. Ryan
  6. William
  7. Alexander
  8. Noah
  9. Daniel
  10. Aiden (tied for 10th)
  11. Jayden (tied for 10th)

But according to the state of Maryland, the top 10 boy names were quite different:

Rank OVERALL Asian &
Pacific Isl.
Black Hispanic White
1 Aiden Aiden Jaiden Christopher Lucas
2 Christopher Lucas Aiden Anthony Mason
3 Jayden Alexander Christopher John Jackson
4 Mason Muhammed Cameron Alexander Jacob
5 Lucas Ethan Elijah Daniel John
6 Jacob Nathan Jeremy Matthew Aiden
7 Alexander John Michael Brian Alexander
8 Nathan Andrew Isaiah Justin Liam
9 Michael Justin Mason Jaiden William
10 Ethan Jacob Caleb Kevin Ryan

It isn’t totally implausible that Aiden and Jayden might have ranked 1st and 3rd in 2011, but Christopher in 2nd? Maybe if this were a dataset from thirty years ago, but not five years ago. The SSA indicates that Christopher ranked closer to 18th in the state that year.

And what’s with the two different spellings of Jayden/Jaiden?

Plus there are some sizable raw number discrepancies, such as:

  • Aiden: 588 babies (MD data) vs. 281 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • Christopher: 584 babies (MD data) vs. 256 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • Jayden: 498 babies (MD data) vs. 281 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • Mason: 463 babies (MD data) vs. 432 babies (SSA data for MD)

And now the girl names. According to the SSA, these were the top 10 girl names in Maryland in 2011:

  1. Sophia
  2. Olivia
  3. Isabella
  4. Madison
  5. Ava
  6. Emma
  7. Abigail
  8. Chloe
  9. Emily
  10. Elizabeth

According to the state of Maryland, though, the top 10 girl names in the state were these:

Rank OVERALL Asian &
Pacific Isl.
Black Hispanic White
1 Sophia Sophia Chloe Sophia Sophia
2 Isabel Chloe London Emily Isabel
3 Chloe Isabel Layla Allison Abigail
4 Ava Caitlin/Kate Madison Isabel Olivia
5 Madison Hannah Kennedy Ashley Ava
6 Olivia Olivia Aaliyah Angelina Riley
7 Emily Sara(h) McKenzie Natalie Madison
8 McKenzie Abigail Zoe(y) Genesis Emily
9 Abigail Emily Payton Gabrielle McKenzie
10 Riley Lillian/Lily Taylor Kimberly Chloe

Not only does Isabel magically replace Isabella in the Maryland data, but McKenzie and Riley rank 8th and 10th — even though the SSA says they should be closer to 77th (!) and 28th.

Not to mention the raw number discrepancies, such as:

  • Sophia: 503 babies (MD data) vs. 367 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • McKenzie: 325 babies (MD data) vs. 71 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • Riley: 298 babies (MD data) vs. 118 babies (SSA data for MD)

Intriguing parallels between the MD data and the NYC data do exist. In both locations, Elijah and Isaiah were in the top 10 for African-American boys only, and London, Aaliyah, and Taylor were in the top 10 for African-American girls only.

But if we can’t trust the data, we can’t draw any meaningful conclusions.

Labels like “Caitlin/Kate,” “Sara(h),” “Zoe(y)” and “Lillian/Lily” suggest that variant names were combined here and there. I suspect this is also what happened with Isabel/Isabella, Sophia/Sofia, Aiden, Jayden, MacKenzie, Riley, and maybe even Christopher (perhaps Maryland merged all the “Chris-” names). What are your thoughts on this?

7 thoughts on “The Top Baby Names in Maryland in 2011?

  1. I’m sure you’re right that the state combined variant spellings and similar forms. I can only find the top 100 for Maryland in the SSA data, but just by combining the few variants there, Christopher/Christian has 465 and Aiden/Aidan/Ayden 455. It wouldn’t take many more spellings to bring them up to the numbers in the Maryland data. Same with McKenzie and Riley (Mackenzie, McKenzie, Makenzie and Riley, Ryleigh, Rylee are all in the top 100, and there are still more spellings of those names). In my opinion, combining them gives a much more accurate image of their popularity than you get from the SSA list, so if I were wondering what names are really the most used in Maryland, I’d tend to prefer the state’s list. I don’t necessarily agree with combining Christopher and Christian, or Isabel or Isabella, or Lily and Lillian, but if you think your daughter will stand out because she’s Isabel and not Isabella, you’re going to be disappointed.

  2. DC area native here. It does look like Maryland combined variant names, but I suspect another part of the issue may be that the state lines here are pretty fluid and parents don’t think twice about giving birth in a different jurisdiction.

    I don’t know why parents from, e.g., Northern Virginia who go to Maryland hospitals would be disproportionately likely to name their daughters McKenzie, but that would explain why the raw numbers are so skewed — a lot of the “extra” babies in the Maryland data might show up as “missing” from the DC or Virginia data.

  3. Another factor, although I don’t think it would create discrepancies that great, is that the MD data is based on actual birth registrations in the state while the SSA lists are composed from names of SSN applications. Considering that Maryland is right next to DC where there are a lot of foreigners living there temporarily due to government work from their home countries, a lot of those children may not get SSNs because they aren’t necessary under those circumstances (but their births are still registered locally).

  4. @Diane: Thank you for doing some of the the math — I hadn’t checked that yet. Too lazy. :) I think most parents would agree with you that the “combined spellings” way of determining popularity is more helpful/realistic. I just wish MD had been more strict about their combinations (Caitlin and Kate?) and also disclosed more about their methodology, so we wouldn’t have to sit here and make guesses about what happened.

  5. @Elisabeth – Very interesting! That was something I hadn’t even considered, but you’re right, people crossing state lines could be skewing things as well. I wish there were some easily accessibly data on this…I’m trying to find some now, but not having any luck. Though I did uncover this tantalizing little fact: Maryland is one of the least-expensive states in which to have a baby.

    (Also spotted a news story about Alabama mothers crossing state lines to have access to midwives.)

  6. Ah, so it looks like Maryland does count resident births only. Here’s a quote from the MD Vital Statistics Annual Report for 2014:

    Data contained in this report are presented on a county of residence basis, regardless of where the vital event occurred, unless specifically noted otherwise. Birth, death and fetal death data include information for all Maryland residents, regardless of whether the birth or death occurred in Maryland, the remainder of the United States, or certain foreign countries that report vital event data to Maryland. Information on marriages and divorces is limited to events occurring in Maryland.

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