Last year we analyzed the effect that the Star Wars franchise has had on the names of American children. The number of Lukes, Leias, and even Darths rose after the first film, A New Hope, came out in 1977.
Now, with the latest data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) on baby naming in 2016, can we say the same about The Force Awakens, the 2015 film that continued Star Wars’ main storyline? We’ll let this chart speak for itself.
Rey and Kylo Ren are, of course, the names of the primary protagonist and villain, respectively, in the new Star Wars trilogy.
The data on this chart doesn’t show the number of Reys and Kylos born every year. It is adjusted to show the number per million American births, to keep the value comparable from one year to the next. One thing to note: The Centers for Disease Control have not yet released the data on the number of Americans born in 2016, so we projected that using a 1% growth rate from 2015. This is a pretty conservative estimate for our analysis since the growth rate has been under 1% for the past few years; the real relative commonality of Kylo and Rey might actually be a bit higher.
Plus, the trend is pretty clear by just looking at the raw numbers. In 2014, there were 239 Reys, and only 8 Kylos, born in the US. The Force Awakens came out at the end of 2015, and in 2016 those numbers rose to 317 and 245, respectively.
There is something about the name Rey that makes the influence of Star Wars even more obvious. In the film, Rey is a woman. Before 2016, no girls named Rey appear in the data—all of the babies we see in the data are boys. But last year there were suddenly 63 female Reys.
There is one caveat here, too: The SSA data only includes names for which there are five or more births in a given year, so it’s possible that for some years before 2016 there were four or fewer Reys born. Even so, that is a very small number.
The data on American babies goes back pretty far, so we can look at how The Force Awakens names compare to earlier times. Two new Star Wars character names—Rey and particularly Finn—appear to be riding a trend toward popularity that began in 2000.
The phenomenon of a prominent character latching onto an already-emerging name is not new. We saw similar trends in our analysis of Disney baby names. The names Ariel and Jasmine—both characters given new names by Disney—were already on the rise before The Little Mermaid and Aladdin came out.
While these Star Wars names have become more popular, they are nowhere near the level of America’s most common names. Last year 2,305 Finns came into the world, compared to 19,015 Noahs, the most popular boys’ name in 2016. (The most popular girls’ name was Emma, with 19,414 births.)
This is just more evidence that the Star Wars effect is real, and that the franchise will continue to pervade American culture for years to come.