The most popular baby names don't differ a whole lot across the country, even between states that are very far apart geographically and culturally. Mason is big in Maine, Louisiana, and Washington alike, for example, and Emma and Sophia are the dominant girls' names in most states, according to maps from the Huffington Post:
That left us interested in the question: which baby names are uniquely popular in particular states?
We looked at the top 100 names in each state and divide the number of babies with a given name by the total US babies with that given name — so we figured out what share of national Marys, Kristens, Carolines, and so on are from Alabama, for example. We then labeled each state by the name for which its share was greatest. So Alabama accounted for 10.5 percent of all Kensleys, a greater share than Alabama had for any other name.
Likewise, Massachusetts has a bigger share of all the Maeves born in the US than it has of any other name in its top 100 list. But nearby Vermont and New Hampshire, as well, have (relatively) large shares of Maeves. "Distinctive" is the word we've used to title these maps, but you might also think of this as a state's most disproportionately popular name. That's why some states end up with the same names. Washington, for example, claims 4.9 percent of the nation's Hazels, while Oregon claims 3.2 percent. But Hazel still tops both those states' lists.
Here's the map for boys' names:
*Methodological notes: A simpler way to calculate distinctiveness would be to take the total share of girls in Alabama named Mary and divide it by the share of girls in the US named Mary ... then to repeat that for all names. That way you'd know how many times more common a name is in a given state than it is nationally. The problem, however, is that the Social Security Administration didn't have total numbers of babies born in 2013 by state and sex readily available. The CDC and Census Bureau didn't have that data, either. That means we can't easily figure out what name is most distinctive in a given state.
Also, one oddity that came up when we measured this: New Mexico. In that state, Angelo and Jazmine were in fact the second most distinctive/dominant names. The most distinctive, by a long shot? "Male" and "Female." In New Mexico, there were 44 babies named "Male" and 46 named "Female" in 2013, according to Social Security Administration data.
I called the Social Security Administration, and they had no idea how that happened. One can imagine a few possibilities — one is that it's a clerical error, and that one or two New Mexico hospitals are particularly prone to making it (the Male/Female naming thing happens in other states as well, but New Mexico accounted for 88 and 96 percent of these unfortunately-named kids, respectively). Or maybe a hospital or two used these as placeholder names for parents who did't have names immediately picked out for their kids. Or maybe — just maybe — a few parents liked these as names. It's impossible to tell from the data, so consider this a call to our New Mexico readers: If you know what's going on, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: This article (the text, but not the map) originally said Connecticut's most distinctive girls' name is Maeve, when it should have said that Massachusetts' most distinctive girls' name is Maeve.