The Baby Name Primary:

Michael Williams points to the change in popularity of the name Hillary. See his post for a cool graphic, but here's the table from the Social Security Administration:

Year of birth Rank [lower = more popular]
2005 882
2004 809
2003 [>1000]
2002 [>1000]
2001 886
2000 878
1999 856
1998 868
1997 725
1996 693
1995 684
1994 566
1993 261
1992 131
1991 165

George has remained roughly stable from 2000 on; William spiked in 1998, of all years, and remained high (now #11, as opposed to $20 in 1992).

Eugene has been declining ever since this blog was founded in 2002. On the other hand, it has been declining since 1991, the first year that this table reports, and even more since the 1930s. In the 1930s, by the way, it was #25 (owing at least in part, I'm told, to the fame of Socialist Eugene V. Debs); in 2005, it was #539.

But, hey, I beat Hillary!

UPDATE: I originally erroneously reported this as Census data; it's Social Security Administration data.

Stuart Buck (mail):
My erstwhile co-blogger and classmate Matt Evans made a similar point three years ago.
9.8.2006 2:48pm
Hilary Duff was born in 1987.

I'm just saying.
9.8.2006 2:50pm
Tracy Johnson (www):
And I thought you were named after Eugene of Savoy!
9.8.2006 3:00pm
Helen (mail):
The census data will track "Hilary" and "Hillary" separately.
9.8.2006 3:03pm
Alan P (mail):
The information is from the Social Security Administration, not the census.
9.8.2006 3:20pm

Indeed. This is what happened to "Hilary":

1994+ [>1000]
1993 651
1992 233
1991 242

So, I would note two things. One, "Hilary" seems to have plummeted even worse than "Hillary". Two, in this brief series, there appears to be some correlation between what happened to "Hilary" and "Hillary".

So, I still blame Duff. Although Swank's first recorded appearance in IMDB is in 1990, so she is a close second in my mind.
9.8.2006 3:20pm
Abe Delnore:
That information doesn't come from the Census; it comes from the Social Security Administration and is based on a one-percent sample of applications for new SSNs.

--Abe Delnore
9.8.2006 3:24pm
Elliot (mail):
The Census cheats Elliots and Elliotts out there by not aggregating us. Elliot is #386 and Elliott is about #410 or so.
9.8.2006 3:30pm
For lots of fun with baby names, check out the
NameVoyager (requires Java).

9.8.2006 3:33pm
Iris Engelson:
Here's an even cooler graphic:
9.8.2006 3:38pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
When I see a chart based on rankings, I immediately think whether we're really talking about Hillary becoming less popular or rather other things becoming more popular, like if there was a trend toward more uniformity in names, which would make Hillary go down even if the same number of new babies were named Hillary each year.

But it turns out that this doesn't make much difference. I looked at the raw numbers on the SSA site and it's about the same. You can see the same, but only by decade, with the Baby Name Wizard.

But here's an interesting factoid: Hillary is now back where it was around 1974. If you extend the series back about 20 years, you find Hillary at about 300 babies/year in the early 1970s (242 in 1972, 250 in 1973, 312 in 1974), and rising spectacularly from about 1972 to highs of 1522 in 1990, 1789 in 1991, and 2523 in 1992. Now it's at 282 in 2005. (I could have gotten the percentages too, but I was too lazy.)

So why the huge rise over those earlier 20 years?
9.8.2006 3:38pm
Anon1ms (mail):
Let's go back one more president -- Ronald has lost in popularity every single year (save one) since 1991.
9.8.2006 3:42pm
Clearly, it's the Polish Catholic prison guards revolting against their faith and against the identical twins who run their country by choosing a non-Catholic variant St. Hilary of Poitiers...
9.8.2006 3:43pm
9.8.2006 3:54pm
If one looks at the drop in Hillariphilia between 1992 and 1994, one can explain the GOP romp in the latter year's elections.

Who needs multi-causal explanations? They get confusing.

I have a son named William, and have noticed that the name has gained phenomenally in popularity since 1998--the year he was born. It's at #11 now? Wow! My faith is reaffirmed, after years of "Anything-with-a-J"-names.
9.8.2006 3:59pm
I'm guessing William spiked in 1998 because of press coverage of Prince William (which was pretty heavy in late 97 and early 98 because of his mother's death) and almost totally unrelated to Bill Clinton.
9.8.2006 4:49pm
Jason Fliegel (mail):
I came into this thread to post a link to the Name Voyager, but I see scarhill and Iris Engelson beat me to it. So instead, I'll just point out that Hillary and Hilary were declining in popularity long before anyone outside of Arkansas had ever heard of the Clintons.
9.8.2006 4:51pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
My post from 2:38 above indicates that Jason Fliegel above is incorrect. Hillary substantially increased in popularity (tenfold!) from the early 1970s to the early 1990s, and its drop has now got it back down to about its 1974 level.
9.8.2006 5:17pm
ElizabethN (mail):
Sascha asks, "So why the huge rise over those earlier 20 years?"

Looking at the NameVoyager, the shape of the Hillary curve is strikingly similar to the curve for Jennifer. I think it's a fairly common shape, especially for girls' names - they come into fashion, hit their peak, and subside relatively rapidly. The cycle may be getting a bit faster in recent years, as more people seem to value uniqueness in names.

But The Baby Name Wizard suggests that in general, names rarely fall off the popularity charts because of famous personages.
9.8.2006 9:21pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
My name is currently #30--among women. I have a grand-niece with the same name I have.
9.9.2006 2:02am
Chad (mail):
I think it's worth noting that Chelsea undergoes a similar, and very pronounced, decline in popularity since 1992.
9.9.2006 3:18am
Walk It:

I'd go with latter, as nothing new broke; as noted you just caught an error, same as the being quoted on the floor of the Senate post, which has also been corrected.

Just tryin to keep ya honest. It's harder to cricize the human errors, when you acknowledge that you're quite capable or erring so often in print yourself.
9.9.2006 12:24pm