Once again, the most popular names for babies born in the United States are Liam and Emma. Those are the findings as determined by Social Security Administration (SSA) data, based on over 3.7 million babies born in the United States for 2018 - the lowest number of births since 1986.
Which names missed the top ten? Former favorites, Jacob and Abigail, fell out of the top 10 for the first time since 1992 and 2000.
Which names were recent additions? Lucas made the top 10 for the first time for boys and Harper rejoined the top 10 for girls.
Here’s the top 10 list for boys:
And here’s the top 10 list for girls:
For purposes of the list, variations and alternate spellings are treated as different names. That’s why Liam (1) made the list as well as William (3). Ditto for Mia (7) and Amelia (8) - The Princess Diaries, anyone? That also explains why you’ll see Sophia (5) in the top ten list for girls and see Sofia (17) a little further down.
Outside of the movies, a real-life royal, Meghan Markle (now the Duchess of Sussex), might have influenced the choice of baby names in 2018. The biggest jump in girls’ names was Meghan, jumping from 1,404 to 703. The Duchess might have even more influence on the list next year: in 2018, Archie made an appearance in the top 1,000 for the first time in thirty years and is expected to rise in popularity following the birth of Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
Pop culture played a part in baby names in 2018, too. Yara shot from 986 to 672 in 2018: Yara Greyjoy is a character on the HBO hit, Game of Thrones. And Dani, a variation on Dany (from Daenerys), was also on the move, rising 103 spots to 945; Khaleesi also moved up, landing at 549. The actress who plays Daenerys, Emilia Clarke, also likely influenced parents-to-be, as her name moved up 17 spots to 58.
Genesis made the most significant leap for boys in 2018, moving 608 spots to 984. The name may have seen a boost as a result of the choices of some high-profile stars a few years ago. Grammy-winning performer Alicia Keys named her son Genesis in 2014, while actress Viola Davis named her son Genesis in 2011. Saint made the second biggest climb, heading 438 spots up to 859. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West named their son Saint in 2015.
If you’re curious about the popularity of a particular name, you can find out more on the SSA website. The Social Security Administration has released baby name data since 1997 although if you head over to the site, you can find data ranging well before that: Names in the database range as far back as 1880. (Be prepared – it’s addictive.)
The lists are compiled from names on Social Security card applications. Nowadays, the process of getting a Social Security number at birth is so streamlined that the application typically happens when you submit information for the birth certificate.
If you decline to get a Social Security number for your child when you submit information for the birth certificate, you can always apply later – but that’s a little more complicated and time-consuming. You’ll have to appear at the SSA office with a form SS-5 (downloads as a PDF) and your child’s original birth certificate. If your child is over the age of 12 when you make the application, the child has to come along with you even if you’re the person signing the application on that person’s behalf. For more on how to get a Social Security number, you can check out this pamphlet from SSA (downloads as a PDF). Note that there is no charge to get a Social Security number and card for your child – but there are limits (more on that here).
Of course, unless you have a Gerber baby, the chances are slim that your little one will be headed to work immediately. So why get a Social Security number at birth? Taxes. Your child must have a Social Security number for you to claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return. If you can’t claim your child as a dependent, you can’t claim certain tax breaks, including the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the newly expanded child tax credit. Additionally, without a Social Security number for your child, you can’t file as head of household (HOH) or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child (more on filing status here).
If you don’t want a Social Security number for your child, you don’t have to get one. Some folks may object to having a Social Security number assigned for religious reasons. You can request an exemption/waiver on this basis but, ironically, you have to get a Social Security number to do so. What happens, practically speaking, is that you must obtain a number solely to fill out form 4029 (downloads as a PDF) for the waiver. Assuming you qualify for the exemption/waiver, you must notify the Social Security Administration that this is your intention and that you do not want a Social Security card created or mailed.
Most Americans do get a Social Security number. More than 450 million taxpayers have received Social Security numbers since the first number was issued on December 2, 1936. That first number, SSN 055-09-0001, belonged to John D. Sweeney, Jr. of New Rochelle, New York (fun fact: Sweeney never received Social Security benefits).
Social Security numbers are widely used today for a variety of purposes although there are only about 40 official uses approved by Congress. That said, the Social Security Act also allows state and local governments to require a Social Security number for tax and other reasons. Having the number now will make things a lot easier for little Liam or little Emma later.