The Long-Term Consequences of Distinctively Black Names: Evidence from the American Past

Trevon D. Logan, Ohio State University
Lisa Cook, Michigan State University
John M. Parman, College of William and Mary

Racialized given names have been linked to a range of negative outcomes. There is no work which addresses historical naming patterns or their consequences. We provide the first evidence that distinctively racialized names existed long before the Civil Rights Era, establishing a new fact in the literature. Using a variety of data sources, we document the existence of historical naming patterns for African American males in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that are similar to naming patterns today but which use different first names in the naming conventions. Second, we provide the first evidence of long-term consequences of distinctively racialized names. Drawing on millions of death certificates from a number of states, we find that having an African American name added nearly one year of life relative to other African American males, on average. This finding reorients the literature on welfare and family in the African American past.

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Presented in Session 28: Rethinking Racial/Ethnic Distinctions and Measurement