Friday, 18 March 2016

Bad Name Means Bad Blood

Talking about Bud Weisser getting arrested in a brewery, made me think about other odd names, and whether they link to success (or indeed failure) ... for instance had I named a child 'Caractacus', would they have succeeded in life?

US research released in 2009, compared crime statistics, against a list of more than 15,000 boys first names, to reveal a distinct “name-crime link” among American males (but presumably the same applies in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand as well). Apparently the more unpopular or uncommon the boys first name is, the greater the chance that the juvenile would end up incarcerated later in life. This apparently held true across all races, with those boys with unpopular (i.e. not common) names, way more likely to do at least some time in prison.

Bad Name Equals Bad Blood

The study gave values to names (based upon popularity), with 'Michael' for example, being rated at 100, and therefore the least likely name to be associated with juvenile delinquency. They placed 'David' in the middle at 50, with 'Alec, Ernest, Ivan, Malcolm' and 'Tyrell' languishing with a 1-point rating.

The researchers then looked at the juvenile detention records in the USA, and found that for every 10 per cent increase in a name’s popularity, there was a 4 per cent decrease in the number of juvenile delinquents of the same name. Sadly, the researchers didn't compile a top ten list for good or bad names (as it was likely to have had some statistical issues, so they weren't interested), so I can't prove that 'Caractacus' would have made it up, or down, the social ladder, but sadly this research suggests that it might have ended badly.

Of course on a serious note, there could be greater implications in this study. For instance, do jurors, judges and other legal officers display bias against suspects with lower rated names e.g. 'Tyrell' (or do they even link some names with colour or lower social class?). Police officers may subconsciously profile suspects based on their first name, causing officers to further interrogate, and physically search people with unpopular names.

So I guess the question is whether first names are ever useful in predicting criminal recidivism, or was this just another meaningless study, and the name-crime link just too unpredictable for anything meaningful to be derived from it? The FBI's 10 most-wanted fugitives in 2016 for example, included the first names 'Jason, Yaser, Fidel, Eduardo, Alexis, William' - along with 'Victor, Robert, Glen' and 'Myloh' .... in 2009 it included 'Usama'. The latter was the now late Osama bin Laden, whose surname the FBI spelt with a “U” rather than an “O.”

FBI Latest Most Wanted ....

The US Social Security Administration’s then list of the US nation’s top-1,000 baby boys’ names ranked 'James' at No. 15, 'Robert' at 47, 'Jason' at 59, and 'Victor' at 104. Based on that same information database, if the report criteria was to hold true, then the top-three most popular US boys names of 'Jacob, Michael' and 'Ethan', would be least likely to grow into criminals and not feature on the list, whilst 'Tryston, Leroy' and 'Daxton', as the least popular, would be the most likely to appear on the FBI list.

Of course as I hinted at earlier, and indeed in a very early blog post, its social and cultural factors that swing it for criminality ..... 'Tyrell' is a name most likely to be given to a black boy from a low socio-economic status and background, and from a household most likely to be run by one parent. Similarly for the names 'Tryston, Leroy' and 'Daxton'.

So with white or oriental males with unusual or weird names (such as 'Caractacus), these are not only a lower risk, but actually fairly common amongst high socio-economic status background families (and not usually one parent run). The US TV magician 'Penn Jillette' named his sons 'Moxie Crimefighter' and 'Zolten', for example, while singer 'Gwen Stefani' called her second baby boy 'Zuma Nesta Rock', and in the UK, 'David Bowie' originally called his son 'Zowie Bowie' (he later changed it to 'Duncan').

And of course the most famous living Englishman, 'David Beckham', has named his sons 'Brooklyn', 'Romeo' and 'Cruz' .... you can bet that they won't be going to prison (well probably not for murder or theft).

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