The 1970s heralded a feminist-driven wave of brides who kept their maiden names, but that trend dived in the 1980s, when new wives started using their husbands' name again. Now, a New York Times analysis, the number of maiden-name-retaining women is surpassing that of the '70s. Using Google Consumer Surveys, plus data culled from the Social Security Administration, the Census Bureau, and New York Times' wedding announcements, the analysis found that 20% of women married over the past few years kept their name, compared with 17% of first-time wives in the '70s, 14% in the '80s, and 18% in the '90s. Yet reasons cited today seem to be far more practical, such as having established oneself professionally using a maiden name, wanting to facilitate being found on social media, and even the anticipation of divorce down the line.
"It's just my name for 33 years of my life," one woman who married last fall tells the Times. Some experts also note that strides women have made in society may have lessened the need to assert themselves by holding onto their birth names. "I see us as equal partners in our relationship," another wedded interviewee who changed her name tells the Times. "But I don't tie my personal success and me trying to be a successful woman lawyer to keeping my original name." Plus, modern couples may simply be used to retaining their own identities before rings are exchanged. "When they do get around to marrying, they’ve already lived in a household with two names, so maybe it seems normal to them," a Penn State sociology professor notes. (Women in Japan sued to keep their maiden names.)