In generations past, was it advantageous for a black man to have a distinctively black name?
Yes, according to a study published recently in the journal Explorations in Economic History.
Researchers Lisa D. Cook, Trevon D. Logan, and John M. Parmanc analyzed over 3 million death certificates from Alabama, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina from 1802 to 1970. They looked specifically at the life expectancy of men with the following distinctively black names:
Perlie, Purlie, Pearlie
What did they find?
That black men with these names lived more than a full year longer (on average) than other black men. In fact, according to the abstract, “[a]s much as 10% of the historical between-race mortality gap would have been closed if every black man was given a black name.”
So what’s behind this beneficial effect?
It’s hard to say, but Lisa D. Cook believes that the black men with Biblical names specifically could have been “held to a higher standard in academic and other activities […] and had stronger family, church or community ties,” and that this could have played a part in their relative longevity.
The list was created by amateur genealogist G. M. Atwater as a resource for writers. It contains names and name combinations that were commonly seen in the U.S. from the 1840s to the 1890s. Below is the full list (with a few minor changes).
Victorian Era Female Names
Victorian Era Male Names
Abigale / Abby
Almira / Almyra
Ann / Annie
Dorothy / Dot
Elizabeth / Eliza / Liza / Lizzy / Bess / Bessie / Beth / Betsy
So far I’ve heard of two babies born in the Philippines in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. typhoon Yolanda) who were given typhoon-related names:
Bea Joy, daughter of Emily Ortega Sagalis, was born in the Tacloban airport. She was named Bea in honor of her grandmother Beatriz, who died in the storm.
Israel, son of Emylous and Audrin Antigua, was born in an Israeli field hospital in Bogo City. His mother chose the name Israel “to show her gratitude to the Israeli team composed of doctors, surgeons, nurses and rescue personnel.”