Alias Smith and Jones

I had to read this [pdf] just for the title and the authors: “The Economic Payoff of Name Americanization” by Costanza Biavaschi, Corrado Giulietti and Zahra Siddique.

But this is what’s truly amazeballs (doncha just hate that word?) about it:

We examine the impact of the Americanization of names on the labor market outcomes of migrants. We construct a novel longitudinal data set of naturalization records in which we track a complete sample of migrants who naturalize by 1930.

We find that migrants who Americanized their names experienced larger occupational upgrading. Some, such as those who changed to very popular American names like John or William, obtained gains in occupation-based earnings of at least 14%.

We show that these estimates are causal effects by using an index of linguistic complexity based on Scrabble points as an instrumental variable that predicts name Americanization. We conclude that the tradeoff between individual identity and labor market success was present since the early making of modern America.

I dunno. “John” may be short, but it’s 14 points. (“William” is 12.) Still, putting the names on tiles is probably as valid as, and certainly less complicated than, writing down every single name and doing some overwrought extrapolation therefrom.

(Via the umlautless Chris Blattmann.)







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