The shorter your first name, the bigger the paycheck, says The Ladders, a career website. (via Quartz. This is being publicized as “each extra letter in your name costs you $3,600″. So could I get $10,800 more by going by “Mike”? Seems unlikely – and they are claiming that the effect holds up even with nicknames.

There does seem to be some sort of pattern – average salary peaks for five-letter names, dropping off both for longer and shorter names. Not surprisingly, five letters is pretty close to average name length. I took a look at the Social Security Administration’s list of 1000 most popular names for each sex, from 1960. (The original post was looking at “C-level” employees, who are going to skew somewhat old relative to the rest of the labor force.) Average male name length in this sample was 5.59 letters; average female name length was 5.73 letters. Furthermore, among male names, the shorter names tend to be more common than the longer ones. (This doesn’t hold true for female names.)

My theory, then — which I don’t have the data to test — is that people with more common names tend to do better at the C-level. Perhaps parents who give their kids common names tend to be more conformist and raise their kids with the sort of values that will get them such a job. Or perhaps kids with more common names end up more self-confident, since they’re not constantly thinking that their names are weird — and self-confidence is important for career advancement.

(None of this should be taken to be comments on my own name, Michael, which was very common in the early eighties.)

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