It's the Media, Not Juveniles, Who Are Delinquent: A Panic About Names

Defining Wisdom grantee John Pfaff critiques a recent paper entitled "First Names and Crime: Does Unpopularity Spell Trouble?," written by two economists at Shippensburg University, David Karlist and Daniel Lee, in the Huffington Post. The article claims that there is a relationship between the likelihood of criminal behavior and a person's first name. For Pfaff, this critique points to a deeper problem in the empirical social sciences: the lack of "effective and rigorous means for assessing whether a study is good or bad."

Pfaff is an associate professor of Law at Fordham Law School. His project for the Defining Wisdom project is entitled "Incorporating Systematic Sources of Knowledge into the Social Sciences and the Law."



"Papers around the world, from the Chicago Tribune to the Daily Telegraph to the Times of India, along with respectable blogs such as Science Daily, have likely terrified hundreds, if not thousands, of parents. All are reporting on an empirical paper making an eye-catching claim: give your male child an unpopular name, and you have condemned him to a life of crime. Amazon must be doing brisk business selling baby-naming books today..." 

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