Senior Planet, 06/13/2014

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When was the last time you met a baby named Gertrude or Elmer?

How about a senior named Zoe?

Plenty of sites for parents-to-be list the current most popular and trending baby names. But nobody has taken the time to figure out the average age of people who go by specific names – until now.

Thanks to Nate Silver, the statistician and political analyst who made his name predicting election outcomes, we can now judge how old someone is just from their name.

Silver and Allison McCann crunched standard Social Security Administration data to produce an analysis of names’ shelf lives and the stories they tell about age. “The median living Mildred in the United States is now 78 years old,” the analysts tell us in their article on Silver’s fascinating stats-driven website fivethirtyeight.com.

These days, a fraction of all the babies born are given a top 100 name – the majority of 21st-century kids have unusual or invented names – but in our baby days, parents were more likely to pick something popular. That’s why there are plenty of Mildreds who are now in their 70s and a lot of Susans in their 60s.

Is you name on this chart?

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Because parents have been more fashion-bound when naming girls, girl names tend to have shorter lives, and so about a quarter of all living Gertrudes are 87 and older according to the article, “How to tell someone’s age when all you know is their name,” and you’re unlikely to meet one who is under 70. In fact, Gertrude is today’s oldest girl name.


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And yet more Mabels than Gertrudes have died, according to Silver and McCann. (Maybe they’ll follow up with a statistical look at names and longevity.)

What about the boys? Boy naming 60-odd years ago seems to have been swayed by a fondness for the letter “H”; “The majority of living Hermans, Howards, Harrys, Harolds, Harveys and Herberts are in their 60s, or older,” Silver and McCann tell us. Elmer is the oldest male name – median age 66.

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