Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Nominative determinism (wikipedia.org)
23 points by ikeboy on March 31, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 10 comments

I am a software engineer because my last name is Rader.

My paternal ancestors had the occupational surname Radermacher (wheel-wright / cart-wright.) Over time, that became shortened to Rader. When my father went to the US Air Force recruitment office to enlist, the recruiter thought it appropriate for William Rader to become a Radar technician.

My father learned electronics and went on to become an electrical engineer. He learned industrial automation technologies, including microprocessor design and programming. When microcomputers became small and affordable, he had them at home.

I grew up with those computers and was rather fond of them. I went on to earn a CS degree and become a software engineer.

> a person's name can have a significant role in determining key aspects of job, profession or even character. It was a commonly held notion in the ancient world.

--> http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873

"Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination"

"We perform a field experiment to measure racial discrimination in the labor market. We respond with fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. To manipulate perception of race, each resume is assigned either a very African American sounding name or a very White sounding name. The results show significant discrimination against African-American names: White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. We also find that race affects the benefits of a better resume. For White names, a higher quality resume elicits 30 percent more callbacks whereas for African Americans, it elicits a far smaller increase. Applicants living in better neighborhoods receive more callbacks but, interestingly, this effect does not differ by race. The amount of discrimination is uniform across occupations and industries. Federal contractors and employers who list Equal Opportunity Employer' in their ad discriminate as much as other employers. We find little evidence that our results are driven by employers inferring something other than race, such as social class, from the names. These results suggest that racial discrimination is still a prominent feature of the labor market."

Turns out names DO have an impact on your life.

If you haven't read or seen Freakonomics, I should begin by saying that it is quite entertaining, and you should check it out, but it actually looks into this very issue. It turns out that names, while they may not directly cause a person to turn out a certain way in life, are strongly correlated because different social groups have different naming patterns. Low income African American communities have children with distinctly sounding unique names like Darnel or Ladayna. Lower class children often wind up with outdated older names like Scooter or Candy. Upper class children usually wind up with more hip names.

Names often become something of a self fulfilling prophecy. If you were raised in an environment where it seemed reasonable for your parents to name you something unfortunate, your life will probably be just as unfortunate as your name.

The thing is, people know this. If you are dealing with a Laquicha or a Brandi, more likely than not, you will assume that she is from a lower class upbringing. This might influence the way you think about her.

"Upper class children usually wind up with more hip names" - not sure about that. Look at billionaires and royals. The more boring and safe - the better.

Long story short, names are not consistent across socioeconomic groups. That likely plays a larger role than the actual name.

Reminds me of my odds-on favorite candidate for name of the year: Dr. Electron Kebebew

"His father, an Ethiopean electrical engineer, worried that his children would not follow in his footsteps as people of science. To make their career paths clear from birth, he named them after subatomic particles"

I thought this idea of parents using one of their earliest parental acts to influence the destiny of a child to be a fascinating facet of human nature.


The British philosopher John Wisdom comes to mind.


The weather guy on one of our TV stations in Los Angeles is Dallas Raines. I guess he is working in the wrong city, though.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact