Today’s Popular Baby Names Compared With 1956

Today’s Popular Baby Names Compared With 1956

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been collecting people’s names and dates of birth since its inception. All of that data is available on the SSA “baby names” website, where anyone can type in a year and see a list of the most popular names of the time.

Many people first become clients of Sams/Hockaday when they’re 64-65, so there’s a good chance if you’re in your 60s, you’ll see your name on the lists below!

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Popular Female Names: Now vs. 65 Years Ago

Mary, Debra, Linda, Deborah, and Susan were the five most popular female names of 1956. Other notable names include Patricia, Karen, Cynthia, Barbara, Donna, Nancy, Pamela, Sharon, Sandra, Diane, Carol, Kathleen, Cheryl, Brenda, and Kathy.

Today, the most popular female names are Olivia, Emma, Ava, Charlotte, Sophia, Amelia, Isabella, Mia, Evelyn, and Harper.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Popular Male Names: Now vs. 65 Years Ago

In 1956, the most popular male names were Michael, James, Robert, David, John, William, Richard, Mark, Thomas, and Steven.

Today, the most popular names include Liam, Noah, Oliver, Elijah, William, James, Benjamin, Lucas, Henry, and Alexander.

Interesting Facts About Baby Name Trends

When you look at these lists of popular baby names, you can’t help but wonder how the trends come and go.

If you’re in your 60s, you likely have a lot of friends with names on that list. And perhaps you have grandchildren with some of today’s most popular names!

According to JSTOR, names rise in popularity, enjoy a period of dominance, and then fall. Today’s Liam might be tomorrow’s Mateo.

While no one really knows what causes names to come and go, there are a few ideas, including:

  • Pop culture influences: celebrities, books, movies, and even songs can influence the popularity of baby names – for example, Arya (a Game of Thrones character) jumped from 943rd place in 2010 to 72nd in 2021.
  • Politics: war, immigration, and even presidents can have an effect on name trends – for example, the name “Reagan” surged in popularity after Ronald Reagan became president.
  • A cycle of “vintage” name trends: every generation of parents feels they need to reinvent the baby name, and they often dig up vintage names to do it – current “new” old choices include Willa and Margot (NY Times).

Names have also gotten more diverse over the last 100 years:

“Back in 1900, for example, 91% of all children of any gender were given a name from the top 1,000 most popular names. But a century later in 2000, only 75% of girls were given a name from the top 1,000 most-popular girl names.” (JSTOR)

Another trend starting to take hold in the 2020s and beyond is using gender-neutral names (NY Times). Unisex names like Briar, Milan, Lennox, and Sutton are more popular than ever before.

One thing’s for certain – we don’t know which names will be popular tomorrow. Even researchers who have studied name trends say there’s no sufficient way to predict what names will dominate over time (SMU Scholar).


While our articles are typically all about Medicare and retirement planning, it’s fun to take a break and share something unique!

We hope you enjoyed this blast from the past. If you enjoyed this, you might also like our popular series: Celebrities Turning 65 This Year

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