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The ‘Freakonomics’ of naming names

Numbers don’t lie. In fact, they tell a very odd story if you know what you’re looking for.

Numbers don’t lie. In fact, they tell a very odd story if you know what you’re looking for. That’s what economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner discovered in the process of writing “Freakonomics,” which disproves several long-held assumptions about modern society — including a controversial correlation between a drop in U.S. crime about 20 years after passage of Roe. v. Wade.

For the film adaptation of the “Freakonomics,” six documentarians each examined a chapter of the book. Morgan Spurlock, of “Super Size Me” fame, selected the chapter about how a child’s name can have a profound affect on their fiscal success as adults. We grill the filmmaker on his segment.

You chose the segment that examined how baby names can play a role in
that person’s success. What attracted you to this particular chapter?

I think it was me having my son. I just had my son a year and a half
before then, so the whole idea of what we named our kid was still fresh
in conversations we had.

Levitt’s study shows that people with African-American names have a harder time getting work if they use that name on their résumé. Why not delve into the underlying racism that fact reveals?

We tried. It’s hard to find someone who will have that conversation with us on the record and even more, on camera. We just live in a country where there is still such a racial divide. The underlying piece in my segment is very much that racism still exists in a big way. And it’s 2010! It kind of it took me aback.

If you were named according to the socioeconomic background you were born into, what would your name be?

Opossum Wild Turkey Spurlock. [Laughs] We found stories about this man in Georgia who named his kid Opossum. That just goes to show you, some people shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. Please get in this line for the vasectomy. We will gladly take care of this. Your spawning days are over.

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