NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 9, 2005

Black children who are given exotic names at birth are at more of a disadvantage than children with more common names, according to USA Today.

"Afrocentric" names, which were popular in the 1970s and have since rebounded, are typically associated with low socioeconomic status. Indeed, economist David Figlio of the University of Florida examined data on 55,046 children and found:

  • Children whose names began with "lo," "ta," and "qua," or ended with "isha" or "ious" were more likely to score lower on tests and less likely to meet teacher expectations.
  • They were also less likely to receive high-quality instruction or attention; they are also less likely to be referred to gifted programs than siblings with common names.
  • In one example, two twins, Damarcus and Dwayne, had nearly identical test scores, yet Damarcus was slightly less likely to be recommended for a gifted program than Dwayne.

In fact, Figlio found that about 15 percent of the black-white test score gap is correlated with naming patterns, an even greater effect than class size or teachers' qualifications.

Furthermore, the disadvantage continues through adulthood. A study by the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that resumes with "white-sounding" names received 50 percent more responses than those with "black-sounding" names.

Source: Yolanda Young, "A Name Doesn't Have to be a Burden," USA Today, June 3, 2005; and David N. Figlio, "Names, Expectations and the Black-White Test Score Gap," University of Florida and the National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2004.

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