The most-regretted baby names, and more!

Nurses with babies in a hospital maternity ward circa 1917.
Nurses with babies in a hospital maternity ward circa 1917. (HUM Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Sometimes at the Department, we take a break from deep analysis and celebrate the data that simply describes the wild and wonderful world around us. Without further ado, we present the Data Dive.

Most-regretted baby names

Inspired by Mississippi-based journalist Sarah Fowler’s brilliant Washington Post story on the folks who changed their baby’s first name — 30,000 in the past five years alone — we asked the Social Security Administration for a list of the most-changed names. They ran the numbers back to 2017.

Apparently, it’s hard to spell after you or your partner have just gone through labor: The two most-changed names are “Issac” and “Chole,” and the two most-adopted names, as you might expect, are “Isaac” and “Chloe.”

The Department of Data needed to know more about these Choles. We can’t access birth records, but we can search voter registrations. With the help of award-winning Post news researcher Alice Crites, we located a California voter registered as “Chole Tuckness.”

She couldn’t have been more eager to correct the record. Is she really Chole?

“No! Because here’s the thing,” said Chole Chloe Tuckness, age 22. “That’s a ridiculous name!”

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Tuckness wasn’t born a Chole. For her, the name dates back four years, when she ran a summer camp for 4-H. A student misspelled her name as Chole in a skit and, with a tenacity unusual for summer-camp nicknames, it stuck.

“It became a huge thing,” Tuckness said. “I’m still volunteering in this organization. For the last four years, everybody now calls me Chole, at 4-H, because of this specific skit.”

The absurdity escalated that fall, when a friend asked if she could register Tuckness to vote, as part of a homework assignment. A few weeks later, “Chole” started getting official mail from the government. And in the goofiest twist of all, her friend was probably somebody who should have known better.

“The girl that signed me up to vote? Her name is also Chloe,” Tuckness said. “And it’s spelled the same way!”

Regardless, “Chole Tuckness” should soon be banished for good. Just weeks before we spoke, Tuckness submitted the name-correction documents to the county registrar — which just happens to be in the same complex as the county 4-H office.

Beyond egregious misspellings, the third most-changed and third most-adopted names show another common pattern: People tend to abandon names that are falling rapidly in the ranks of most popular baby names — such as Aiden — and to adopt names that are on the rise, such as Sebastian.

States with the most (and fewest!) childless couples

We could have predicted the states in which couples are most likely to have children. Utah leads the list — only 14 percent of couples ages 35 to 45 go childless — followed by Plains states such as Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa, according to our analysis of Census Bureau data from 2019 and 2020.

But the most childless jurisdictions are bewildering. What principle unites D.C., Vermont, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, West Virginia, Nevada and Oregon?

We can almost exclude D.C. as an outlier — as the urban core of a major metropolis, it has more in common with places like San Francisco, Manhattan or Boston than it does most states, as demographer Ken Johnson of the University of New Hampshire points out. But what about that odd grab bag of childless states?

Our first instinct was education. The more educated the head of the household, the more likely a couple will be childless. That could explain D.C., where most people have a bachelor’s degree and almost a third have a postgraduate degree. It also applies to Vermont and Colorado, both in the top 10 most-educated states. But it doesn’t explain Maine, West Virginia, Florida or Nevada.

There must be another factor. We asked Johnson, who spends much of his time thinking about population growth and the factors that influence it. After running the numbers, he ruled out religion — yes, some of the least-childless states tend to have a very high Latter-day Saints population, but the relationship breaks down after that. The most childless states include some of the most Christian (West Virginia) and least Christian (Vermont, Oregon) states, according to Pew Research.

So Johnson zeroed in on age at first marriage, and he’s right: The states with the most childless couples tend be the ones where women get married later. But Johnson said there are probably deeper forces at play — cultural or economic variables, such as the cost of housing, that are simultaneously pushing people to get married later and pushing them to go without children. We just need to figure out what those variables are.

Perhaps recreation plays a role? Leaving aside D.C., many of the most childless states are also in the top 10 for outdoor recreation as a share of the state economy — the exceptions are Oregon, which still ties for 13th, and West Virginia, which tied for a surprising 35th.

Something about high-recreation states seems to attract couples who don’t plan to have kids. Why? Alternatively, maybe you can think of another factor that might be behind the distribution of childlessness? We’d love to hear your suggestions, because we’re kinda stumped.

Where most young Americans are moving

Young White adults who left home in the past decade tended to end up in New York. Their Black peers were most likely to end up in Atlanta. And for their Hispanic and Asian friends, the top destination was Los Angeles, according to a high-powered new analysis from researchers at the Census Bureau and Harvard University.

Moving to a higher-opportunity region can propel you up the income ladder faster than almost any other economic move, researchers say. But that power move tends to be most available to those from higher-income backgrounds.

By combining census, survey and tax data for people born between 1978 and 1992, the report breaks new ground by explaining how your parents’ income determines the distances you can move later in life — and thus the breadth of opportunities you’ll be able to pursue.

On average, a person whose parents rank in the bottom 25 percent of American earners will end up moving less than half as far by age 26 as a peer whose parents are in the top 5 percent, the analysis finds.

“Most young adults do not move far from their childhood home,” write the report’s authors, Census Bureau sociologist and demographer Sonya Porter, Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren and Harvard PhD candidate Benjamin Sprung-Keyser.

Black and Hispanic young adults move the shortest distances, while young Asians, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, move the greatest distances. The less mobile Americans are, the fewer opportunities they can access, researchers say.

Folks with more education tend to move more than those with a high school diploma or less. But even among people with similar education levels, Black students move shorter distances than their White and Asian peers. People in low population-density areas, such as the Great Plains, are more likely to move than those who already live in bigger cities.

To be sure, the ultra-detailed data needed for the report — which you can map in impressive detail on migrationpatterns.org — isn’t available in real time, so it doesn’t reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic or anything else that has happened since 2017.

Greetings, friends! The Department of Data needs your fun facts and quantifiable queries! How old do people get before they start to hide their birthday announcements from Facebook friends? What are the highest-paying jobs for high-school dropouts? Where do reporters go after leaving the media? Just ask!

To get every question, answer and factoid in your inbox as soon as we publish, sign up here. If your question inspires a column, we’ll send an official button and ID card. This week’s buttons go to (hilarious) Mississippi journalist Sarah Fowler, Post demography reporter Tara Bahrampour, who pointed us to the migration-patterns work, and our colleague Michelle Jaconi, the creative genius who helped build the Department of Data, and whose question about professional couples in D.C. sparked part of this week’s column.

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