Popular baby names in the United States, 2016

Flag of the United States
Flag of the United States

According to the Social Security Administration, Emma and Noah were the most popular baby names in the United States in 2016.

Here are the top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names:

Girl names

1. Emma, 19,414 baby girls (same rank as in 2015)
2. Olivia, 19,246 (same rank)
3. Ava, 16,237 (up from 4th)
4. Sophia, 16,070 (down from 3rd)
5. Isabella, 14,722 (same rank)
6. Mia, 14,366 (same rank)
7. Charlotte, 13,030 (up from 9th)
8. Abigail, 11,699 (down from 7th)
9. Emily, 10,926 (down from 8th)
10. Harper, 10,733 (same rank)

Boy names

1. Noah, 19,015 baby boys (same rank as in 2015)
2. Liam, 18,138 (same rank)
3. William, 15,668 (up from 5th)
4. Mason, 15,192 (down from 3rd)
5. James, 14,776 (up from 7th)
6. Benjamin, 14,569 (up from 10th)
7. Jacob, 14,416 (down from 4th)
8. Michael, 13,998 (up from 9th)
9. Elijah, 13,764 (up from 11th)
10. Ethan, 13,758 (down from 6th)

Emma and Noah were also the #1 names in 2015 and in 2014.

Elijah replaced Alexander (now 11th) in the boys’ top 10. No replacements in the girls’ top 10.

Here’s more from the SSA’s press release:

Each year, the list reveals the effect of pop-culture on naming trends. This year’s winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 1,000 are Kehlani and Kylo.

Kehlani rose 2,487 spots on the girls’ side to number 872, from number 3,359 in 2015. Perhaps this can be attributed to Kehlani Parrish, a singer/songwriter who was nominated for a Grammy in 2016. She was named an artist to watch and clearly new parents agree her star is rising. Kehlani collaborated with Zayn Malik, the former One Direction star and current solo artist, on a song in 2016. The name Zayn also made the boys fastest riser list.

The force was strong for Kylo in 2016 as he soared 2,368 spots for the boys, from number 3,269 in 2015 to number 901. Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia and the grandson of Darth Vader, was a character in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Perhaps Kylo can continue to harness the force and climb even higher in the coming years.

The second fastest riser for girls was Royalty. The royal family likely had something to do with this increase in popularity, or the 2015 World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals, may have influenced parents-to-be.

For boys, it was Creed. This could be attributed to the return to the silver screen of America’s favorite boxer Rocky Balboa in the 2015 movie Creed, where Rocky trains and mentors Adonis Johnson Creed, the son of his late friend and boxing rival, Apollo Creed. The name Adonis just happens to be the number four fastest riser on the list for boys.

Regarding Royalty, the inspiration was much more likely R&B singer Chris Brown. His daughter Royalty, born in mid-2014, was featured on the cover of his album Royalty, released at the end of 2015.

More analysis coming soon!

Sources: SSA, Emma and Noah Remain Social Security’s Most Popular Baby Names for 2016 – SSA

Image: Adapted from Flag of the United States (public domain)

4 thoughts on “Popular baby names in the United States, 2016

  1. So I noticed when writing the top 10 post for my own site that the # of Emma’s in the 2015 data has actually changed from 20355 in the original 2015 to 20415 in the update. Do some parents file for SS later or does this reflect official name changes?

  2. That’s a great question. I’ve noticed those yearly readjustments too, even in data that’s already decades old. My hunch is that it’s just late social security applications, but I don’t know the full story.

  3. Since parents aren’t required to obtain a number immediately after birth, some births (especially those later in the year) may not have a number until after the SSA’s cutoff for making it on the name list (but will appear on subsequent re-issued lists). (The main reason for an infant having a number is to be claimed on their parents’ taxes – before that requirement was instituted in the late 1980s many did not have a number until they started working, which is a point to remember when factoring in artifacts on the lists.)

    As for whether or not legal changes to the first name alter the lists, I believe that if a new number is not obtained (which you can get a new SSN only under extraordinary circumstances) the answer is no. If a baby was given a “placeholder” name like “Infant” or “Babyboy/Babygirl” because a name was not chosen when the number was obtained, that will remain on the lists even if it is replaced with a “permanent” name later. Nor does this mean that the SSA lists are strictly a list of “birth names” – it’d be more accurate to call them a list of “names when people obtained their SSNs”*.

    *Remember how I said that historically many people did not get their number at birth like what is typical nowadays? During the era when many numbers were assigned to teenagers when they got their first job they may have put down the nickname they go by instead of the full name on their birth certificate (and back then they weren’t so particular about matching documents like they are now), and those nicknames remain on the stats (which may account for the higher rate of nickname-names for those born ~early 1920s through ~early 1970s). Plus ALL numbers for those born before the SSA was established in 1936 were assigned later in life (meaning that for pre-1920-or-so births those people had likely already joined the workforce when they got their number).

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