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Measuring Diversity Through Last Names


We are a diverse society, and that emerged as a major point of emphasis in 2016.  There are many ways to measure how diverse a society is, including the share of people in various minority groups. One of the most interesting ways is by looking at people’s last names. According to newly released Census Bureau data, the top 25 last names accounted for 8.7 percent of U.S. population in 2010, not much changed from 2000.

The five most common names in the U.S. in reverse order are Jones, Brown, Williams, Johnson, and Smith. One suspects that those were among the most common names at the nation’s founding. Smith is the most common name and is used by about 2.5 million people. But beyond those names are indications of a nation that has become significantly more diverse over time. Martinez has now moved into the top ten last names in America and Perez has entered the top 25.

In percentage terms, the top gainers in last name frequency in recent years have been Zhang, Lee, Ali, Liu, Khan, Vazquez and Wang.  The number of Zhang’s in the county expanded 111 percent during a recent ten-year period.

Anirban Basu, Chariman Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group (SPG), is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's leading economic consultants. Prior to founding SPG he was Chairman and CEO of Optimal Solutions Group, a company he co-founded and which continues to operate. Anirban has also served as Director of Applied Economics and Senior Economist for RESI, where he used his extensive knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic region to support numerous clients in their strategic decision-making processes. Clients have included the Maryland Department of Transportation, St. Paul Companies, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players Committee and the Martin O'Malley mayoral campaign.