Are there going to be more Sophias and Williams next year, or are we due for some baby Harpsichords and Goliaths?

By Marisa Cohen
Updated November 16, 2017
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Baby Girl on Bed
Credit: Monashee Alonso/Getty Images

Some years you may get a slew of baby announcements for newborns named Bexley, Kylo, Magenta, Scooter, and other extremely creative monikers. Other years it seems like everyone is named Emily or Jacob. But it’s not just movie stars and TV characters who are driving these naming trends—it’s all about what kind of mood our fellow Americans are in.

A relatively new field of research has been exploring how the general vibe of society—whether we’re feeling a communal sense of optimism or pessimism, for example—affects everything from the stock market to clothing styles to, yes, even baby names.

“When people feel more positive, they tend to be more flamboyant with their fashion and they choose more unique baby names,” says Alan Hall, a senior analyst at the Socionomics Institute. “When the public mood is negative, however, people grow less tolerant of unusual baby names. They want to hunker down, retreat, and blend in, so they choose names that are much more common.” In fact, Hall says, the percentage of parents giving their baby a name that is not in the top 50 goes up and down in almost an exact mirror of the movements of the stock market. The late 1960s and late 1990s were peaks for both the stock market and creative baby names.

So what does that mean for babies born in today’s divisive political climate? Hall believes that despite all the negativity swirling around in the news, there may be a positive trend coming: “With all the women now standing up to sexual harassment, it reminds me of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s—people are growing more confident in standing up for their rights, giving them a positive feeling.”

So if you want to predict whether everyone will be huddling together with their little Noahs and Emmas in the next few years, or going completely rogue with their baby names, keep one eye on the news, and another on the stock market.