How unisex is your baby’s name?

My first thought was just to calculate which of the 555 names was given to most babies overall.

And on this measure, the UK’s most unisex baby name is… Noah.

Unisex baby names by total count, UK 2017Hmmm.

I’m not sure Noah really qualifies as a unisex name.

Although six parents did call their baby girls Noah, this pales into insignificance when compared to 4,780 boys.

So what about looking at the names which were used in most similar numbers for boys and girls?.It transpires that 26 names were used for exactly the same number of girls and boys.

Here are the most popular:Unisex baby names by ratio then popularity, UK 2017Aaaaand again, I’m not happy!.How can the most unisex baby name be one that was given to only 22 children across the nation?.You could easily go through life and never meet a Darby or a Lamar.

At this point it became clear to me that only a combination of frequency and ratio could determine which name was the UK’s most unisex baby name.

We want to maximise the number of individuals given a name while preferring those where the ratio is closest to 1.

I created an index by dividing the combined count of name frequency by the ratio of boy:girl or girl:boy, whichever was greater than 1.

I then ranked names by greatest index.

WE HAVE A WINNER!.The UK’s most unisex baby name in 2017 was Frankie, with an index of over 600, followed by Quinn and Harley at more than 400 apiece.

Here’s the top 10:Unisex baby names by an index combining total count and ratio, UK 2017This list is much more satisfactory.

The names on it are reasonably popular and reasonably equally distributed.

From this I conclude that this index is a good measure of a name’s unisexity.

(Yes, I made that word up.

)But there is one final problem.

The index as thus constructed is not comparable across populations.

This is because it uses the absolute number of instances of a name, meaning that more populous countries will inevitably see higher index numbers.

So the final step was to scale the index by the total number of babies born in the year in question.

This resulted in very small numbers, so I then multiplied the total by one million to make the results more manageable.

Modestly, I have named this the Canovan Index of Unisexity™.

Just to recap, it is defined thus:We can now give a table of the UK’s most unisex names which can be compared with the results of other datasets.

As we have just divided all the indices by the same amount, the names are in the same order:Unisex baby names by Canovan Index of Unisexity, UK 2017In summary, this is a sensible definition of how unisex a name is.

It takes into account how common it is amongst its own population and the spread between girls and boys.

It is comparable across datasets from different countries, and also across time from the same country.

Watch this space for more analysis!And my own child’s unisex name?.Well, it’s not Frankie.

In fact, it’s not even in the top 10.

But I’ve just given birth to a lovely little index, so I’m happy all the same.


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