Nate Silver is best known as the statistician who accurately predicted the dramatic loss of Mitt Romney in the last presidential election. Last week he write a very interesting piece about ages based on first names.
He used information from the Social Security Administration and coordinated it with actuarial tables, to examine age distributions. Actuarial tables are used by the Social Security Administration and the insurance industry (among others). Abstracting the information, he was able to make a number of calculations.
Using the name Joseph, he determined that the peak year for boys to be given the name Joseph, from 1900 until today, was 1914. About 39,000 were named Joseph that year. But the median age of all males named Joseph is 37 years old. A quarter of living men named Joseph are 21 and a quarter older than 56. Half are between 21 and 56. He then looks at Brittany, which was a common name in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.
When I first read about this, and the fact that the data stretched back to 1880, I was concerned. I was afraid that the information might be coming from the Social Security Death Index. That might skew the results, as so few people are in it during the early years. It turns out, however, that the information comes from the Social Security applications, which makes it more accurate (as far more people filed those forms than received distributions).
Nate made a series of charts showing the median ages for the 25 most common names. For the men, Joshua is the youngest, with the median age around 22. The oldest are men named George or Donald, with a median age of 59. Michael falls in the younger half, at number 10 on the list (age 41).
There is a far greater age difference amongst the women. The youngest group are women named Emily, with a median age of only 17. The eldest of the top 25 is Dorothy, with a median age of 74.
The youngest male name overall is Liam, with a median age of 3. The eldest male name is Elmer, with a median age of 66. For females, the youngest name is Ave, with a median age of 5. Eldest overall if Gertrude, with a median age of 80.
One of the most interesting charts is the Deadest Names. These are the most common first names of individuals born since 1900 who were deceased as of January 1 this year. For women, Mabel was the overall winner, with 90.8% deceased. For men, Elmer once again took first place, with 79.2% deceased.
The entire piece is very interesting. You can read it in How to Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know is Her Name. You can also go to the Social Security website and from the 1880s through the 2000s.