Research shows biases against US immigrants with non-anglicized names

Similar to blind cv studies in Canada where foreign sounding names receive fewer call backs for interviews compared to English names but in a broader context:

Immigrating to a new country brings many challenges, including figuring out how to be part of a new community. For some people, voluntarily adopting a name similar to where someone is living, rather than keeping an original name, is one part of trying to assimilate or fit in with the new community. According to a new study focused on the United States, where anglicized names are more typical, anglicizing ethnic names may reduce bias towards immigrants.

The results appear in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

“We do not suggest immigrants to Anglicize their ethnic names in order to avoid discrimination,” says Xian Zhao (University of Toronto), lead author on the study. “This certainly puts the onus on immigrants to promote equity and our previous studies also suggest that Anglicizing names may have negative implications for one’s self-concept.”

To detect bias, the researchers ran a trilogy of hypothetical transportation accidents: trolley, plane dilemma, and lifeboat. In each variation of these moral dilemmas, participants were asked to imagine that men’s lives were at risk. The men that could be saved or sacrificed might be white with a name like “Dan” or “Alex,” an immigrant with the name “Mark” or “Adam,” or an immigrant with a name associated with China or the Middle East, such as “Qiu,” “Jiang,” or “Ahmed.”

The researchers focused most of their effort on using white participants, to more clearly delineate ingroups and outgroups in their research

In the trolley scenario, people tended to sacrifice the one to save the many, which is a common finding. However, white participants were more likely to sacrifice an immigrant with their original name than someone white or an immigrant with an anglicized name.

Their second study involved a plane crash scenario and possibly leaving someone behind with a broken leg. The white men continued to show similar bias patterns, but the women did not.

In the final scenario, throwing a life preserver to a man named Muhammad and risking the lives of everyone on board a lifeboat, brought similar results. However, for participants who scored as favorable towards multicultural groups, being an named “John” actually improved ones’ chances for survival. But for participants who scored as favorable towards assimilating minority groups, only being white increased the chance to be saved. Zhao says they’ve seen this bias before in some of their other research.

The authors stress that encouraging people to change their name is not the desired outcome of this research. What’s needed, says Zhao, is “the whole society should work together to improve the system to promote diversity and inclusion.”

To that end, Zhao and colleagues are working on intervention studies in which to train people to recognize and pronounce common ethnic names and phonemes, hopefully improving intergroup communication and reducing the need for Anglicizing ethnic names.

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Source: Research shows biases against US immigrants with non-anglicized names

ICYMI: We’re giving our babies distinctly Canadian names and impact of diversity

Another measure of increased diversity is the presence of ethnic names (end of excerpt):

Every year, another snooze-worthy report is published of the country’s most popular baby names—for the past decade, a sea of Emmas, Bens, Liams and Sophias. But this year, to further distinguish ourselves from our American neighbours perhaps, the creative brains at Canadian data journalism site the 10 and 3 (their mission: “to tell compelling and unusual stories about Canada through maps, interactive charts and other interesting visualizations”) decided to look past the Ethans and Isabellas and crunch some distinctly Canadian numbers.

What exactly makes a name more Canadian? “Firstly, it has to be relatively popular in Canada,” explains Arik Motskin, data scientist and founder of, “but more importantly, it has to be much more popular than however popular it was in the United States.” Take the name “Brody:” in 1990, 0.1% of Canadian baby boys were given it, compared to 0.01% of American babies, giving Brody a “Canadian Factor”—as the site calls it—of 10. “That means you’re ten times as likely to meet a Brody in Calgary than you are in Kansas City,” says Motskin. And now with a handy new mode of measurement, plus a century’s worth of data to explore, here are a few things the Canadian Factor has taught us.

Surprise! We love hockey players

A modern-day name with a top Canadian Factor is Linden, who scored a 20 and currently sits atop the scale, for former Vancouver Canucks hockey star (and current exec) Trevor Linden. “There are other hockey names, like Duncan and Darcy, but the Linden thing came out of nowhere for us,” says Motskin. Fittingly, it’s not only Trevor’s Linden’s prodigious sports skills that made his name, but also that he’s so well loved in Vancouver for being a nice guy (how Canadian is that?).

Sorry Pierre and Jean-Paul, name stats are an imperfect science

Name data, though it might seem straightforward enough, is actually notoriously difficult to find. “In Canada, name statistics are [kept] at the provincial level, but beyond the top 10, most provinces don’t provide more details—both for privacy reasons and because they just don’t have the manpower.” The 10 and 3 mostly lucked out across the country, but no dice in Quebec, which presented two problems: “We weren’t able to get data from Quebec, but even if we did, we’d have to crunch the numbers differently,” says Motskin. When French Canadian names showed nation-wide popularity, their Canadian Factor automatically spiked off the scale—like Josée in 1970s with a massive top score of 634. “Maybe French names should be compared to France,” says Motskin.

So long, stereotypes

Co-authored by Zack Gallinger and Neil Oman, Motskin’s piece is titled “Gord, Sheila, Graham and Beverley? The Most Distinctively Canadian Names Are Not What You’d Expect.” While Gordon makes a lot of sense—Downie, Howe, Lightfoot come right to mind—the others are, admittedly, inventions of the authors to make a point. “Everyone has their stereotypes, and these were just ours,” says Motskin. While some stereotypically Canadian-sounding names (looking at you, Nate and Duncan) definitely appear on each decade’s Top 10 list, names like Mohammad and Syed, with a Canadian Factor of 8.7 and 10.3 respectively, measure up equally Canadian.

…Of all Motskin’s number- and name-crunching, the most fascinating was abrupt cultural changes that arrived in distinct waves. The 1930s and 40s saw distinctly Anglo-Saxon monikers like Archibald and Angus for men, Catherine and Doreen for women, he notes, but “by the mid 20th century, suddenly there were a lot of Italian names like Giuseppe and Antonietta.” Immigrants often name their children traditional names, who in turn grow up more assimilated in Canada and look right back to the top 10. “I suspect in 20 years, those kids will have a lot of Emmas and Liams—or whatever’s popular then.”

Source: We’re giving our babies distinctly Canadian names –

Appreciate the History of Names to Root out Stigma –

More on implicit bias and names, this time with respect to African-American names:

Besides the barrier to entry to employment that comes with a “black name,” employers also tend to hire “racially palatable” blacks or other minority individuals. If a person is unstereotypically non white — which is to say, for example, that he or she acts white — that person is more likely to be considered for the job.

Nontraditional names are testaments to nonconformity, but they do not signal combativeness or unacceptable personality fits.

The insidious bias against people with black-sounding names pops up long before they hit the job market. And usually, the more unusual the name, the more susceptible to bias. A study published in 2005 found that teachers had lower expectations for children with unusually spelled names like Da’Quan, even when compared to their siblings with “less black-sounding” names like Damarcus.

That’s because preconceived notions about black-sounding names are not only racist but an indication of class bias. Unusually spelled names that have punctuation are associated with low socio-economic status — a factor that consciously or unconsciously biases teachers, employers and everyone in between. The assumption of low socio-economic status is specific to African-American names (or so-called ghetto black names), as opposed to names of African origin like Nia or Jelani.

But the nuance of individualized, African-American names goes deeper. The diversification of baby names in America started in the late 1960s during a larger sociocultural shift that emphasized individuality, and that’s where names for black and white Americans began to diverge. As black Americans began to give unique names to their children (much more so than white Americans), there was a sharp rise in the prevalence of distinctively black-sounding names — influenced at least in part by the championing of black culture by the Black Power movement.

African-American names became symbols of resistance. They resist uniformity and West European influence, and therefore the limiting cultural framework of how one should present his or herself. When minority individuals are prejudged on the basis of their names, it is because those names do not conform. And in order for diverse identities to be reclaimed as such, we must appreciate the ideology behind unique names and root out the stigmas about them.

And while nontraditional names are testaments to nonconformity, they do not signal combativeness or unacceptable personality fits. They signal the multitudes of different experiences that shape people of color, and increased knowledge of these experiences can be wielded to combat bias.

Source: Appreciate the History of Names to Root out Stigma –