Statistical experts at FiveThirtyEight.com undertook a project last week to discover the most common name in the US. Based on an investigation of Social Security Administration first-name records, Census data on last names, adjusted probabilities, and a number of statistical steps, the site ultimately estimated that "James Smith" takes the top slot (followed by Michael Smith and then Robert Smith). Though it acknowledged plenty of uncertainty in its conclusion, it seems the site's analysis may be pretty accurate: Those three names, in that order, also take the top spots according to targetsmart, a company that has a database of some 230 million registered voters and consumers, FiveThirtyEight reports in a follow-up article.
Where FiveThirtyEight and targetsmart's lists of the 20 tops names diverge, however, is among Hispanic names: targetsmart has more of them. Such names are seriously undercounted in both Social Security Administration and Census Bureau data, and FiveThirtyEight did attempt to adjust for that in its estimate. "But targetsmart's data confirms how hard it is to correct for this problem," it observes. Meanwhile, targetsmart doesn't count people who can't vote, so both analyses are a bit off—but it does seem as though James Smith is the most common name, Andrew Flowers writes. And if you're wondering why there are no girls' names in the top three, the writers note that "the distribution of female names tends to be more diffuse (or, to use less statistical jargon, parents tend to be more imaginative when they name their baby girls)." It turns out America is home to more than one George Washington. (Read more name stories.)