Alphabetism: The Effects of Surname Initial and the Cost of Being Otherwise Undistinguished

50 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2018

See all articles by Alexander Cauley

Alexander Cauley

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics

Jeffrey S. Zax

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 24, 2018

Abstract

A small literature demonstrates that names are economically relevant. However, this is the first paper to examine the relationship between surname initial rank and male life outcomes, including human capital investments and labor market experiences. Surnames with initials farther from the beginning of the alphabet were associated with less distinction and satisfaction in high school, lower educational attainment, more military service and less attractive first jobs. These effects were concentrated among men who were undistinguished by cognitive ability or appearance, and, for them, may have persisted into middle age. They suggest that ordering is important and that over-reliance on alphabetical orderings can be harmful.

Keywords: alphabetism, surname initial, rank effects, ordered search, anthroponomastics, socio-onomastics

JEL Classification: D63, I31, J19, J71

Suggested Citation

Cauley, Alexander and Zax, Jeffrey S., Alphabetism: The Effects of Surname Initial and the Cost of Being Otherwise Undistinguished (October 24, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3272556 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3272556

Alexander Cauley

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics ( email )

Economics Building Rm 212 256 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0256
United States

Jeffrey S. Zax (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics ( email )

Campus Box 256
Boulder, CO 80309-0256
United States
303-492-6394 (Phone)

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