The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names

53 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2003 Last revised: 27 Feb 2022

See all articles by Roland G. Fryer

Roland G. Fryer

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; University of Chicago

Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation

Date Written: September 2003

Abstract

In the 1960's, Blacks and Whites chose relatively similar first names for their children. Over a short period of time in the early 1970's, that pattern changed dramatically with most Blacks (particularly those living in racially isolated neighborhoods) adopting increasingly distinctive names, but a subset of Blacks actually moving toward more assimilating names. The patterns in the data appear most consistent with a model in which the rise of the Black Power movement influenced how Blacks perceived their identities. Among Blacks born in the last two decades, names provide a strong signal of socio-economic status, which was not previously the case. We find, however, no negative causal impact of having a distinctively Black name on life outcomes. Although that result is seemingly in conflict with previous audit studies involving resumes, we argue that the two sets of findings can be reconciled.

Suggested Citation

Fryer, Roland G. and Levitt, Steven D., The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names (September 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w9938, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=439619

Roland G. Fryer (Contact Author)

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