On a first-name basis with success? Your mom chose your name wisely.

Posted by TheLadders Contributor

May 6, 2013

TheLadders urges mothers to use nicknames for their kids.

Happy Mother’s Day! In celebration of all the hard-working mothers out there, we recently conducted a study to see if the names they choose for their children could have possibly dictated their future success in the workplace. First, we analyzed data around first names from TheLadders’ nearly 6 million members against variables such as industry, salary level, and location. We wanted to prove the null hypothesis that what your mother names you makes a difference.

Second, we populated a few lists, hoping they would generate some additional questions. We started by aggregating and sorting names that were at the top of each list:

Top five C-level names, by gender, in ratio to their overall frequency:

Top five highest-paid names:

Both lists are normalized for frequency (not just absolute counts) giving a ratio of [C-level first names]/[all first names]. Here are a few quick takeaways:
    • Christine was the only name that showed up on both the top five C-level and highest paid lists
    • The top 10, highest-paid, C-level executive names earn, on average, 10% more than other names
    • The top 25 most-popular names make about $7,000 more, on average, than the rest of the list
    • Females make, on average, 22% less than their male counterparts in all comparisons
One point we noticed was that shorter names seemed to be higher ranked across all categories and metrics, so we investigated further. It turns out we were right, and there is a correlation between the number of letters in your name and the average salary:

Doing a simple linear regression, it looks like every additional letter added to your name accounts for a $3,600 drop in annual salary. One exception is names with seven letters, like Stephen, but closer inspection showed that seven-letter names lend themselves to males over females, so it’s higher paid males over-indexing and inflating the seven-letter bucket.

This surprising trend of shorter names led us to look at nicknames, and test whether Williams truly make less money than Bills. We looked at every abbreviation and nickname we could identify; here is a summary of results in the “Nickname versus Proper Name” head-to-head death match (gold stars for the winners):

All the shorter names earn more. Our test included 24 pairings, and in only one case (Lawrence vs. Larry) did the longer name win. Still not convinced? The definitive proof for this theory can be seen in Sara vs. Sarah, Michele vs. Michelle, or Philip vs. Phillip –  one letter less positively correlates with increased salary.

In conclusion, it DOES make a difference what your mother named you. So, to all prospective mothers, our advice is to keep Baby’s name short and sweet – your child will thank you when they’re raking in the money one day.

Thanks, Mom, for naming me Daniel but nicknaming me Dan. Happy Mother’s Day!

Daniel Cronyn
 is the director of consumer marketing at TheLadders. Besides a passion for creative direct-response campaigns and analysis, he spends his time tracking down obscure music events and even more obscure food choices across New York City.

Topics: TheLadders Insights