While gender reveals remain as popular as ever, these days, the top trend in baby naming skews gender-neutral. Modern parents love unisex baby names, so we compiled some of the most popular gender-neutral baby names, plus some data that helps to visualize their rise.
Favorite data dad, Nathan Yau, created a series of graphs tracking the popularity of certain genderless baby names. It turns out, popular unisex baby names aren’t a 21st-century invention. Just ask Jackie Robinson or Jackie O. As Yau points out, the rise of gender-neutral baby names in the U.S. between 1930 and 2012 is compelling, even if you’re not ready to name your boy Sue.
The graphs looked at gender-neutral names with a 50-50 split between baby boy names and baby girl names. The first set of charts ranks the “mean squared error” of the top 35 unisex names, while the second graph looks at the raw numbers for all 121 baby names. If you’re not Will Hunting, think of it as the electoral college of unisex baby names (one representative for a collective) versus the popular vote (one person, one vote). While Jessie, Marion, Jackie, and Alva make up the top four in the first set, Jesse, Casey, Riley, and Peyton dominate in the second. The lesson is that you can let your little Jess(i)e decide their gender, but when it comes to who puts an “i” in their name — that’s still Mom and Dad’s call.
Unisex baby names were also affected by something called “poisoned” names, or uncommon baby names that can be traced to a person, event, movie, song, or anything else that popped up in the zeitgeist and made a unique baby name explode in popularity. Just think of all the babies who were named Jackie after Robinson’s 1947 rookie year, Marion after the 2000 Olympics (not so good in retrospect), or Ariel — before the mermaid made her debut. Why non-poisoned gender-neutral names shift is anyone’s guess.
[H/T] Flowing Data
This article was originally published on