Children's First Names, Religiosity and Immigration Background in France

Date01 December 2015
AuthorKim Huynh,Ali Skalli,Mahmood Araï,Damien Besancenot
Published date01 December 2015
Childrens First Names, Religiosity and
Immigration Background in France
Mahmood Araï*, Damien Besancenot**, Kim Huynh*** and Ali Skalli***
Using an index measuring the relative probability of names in different populations, our results
indicate that immigrants and especially those from the Maghreb/Middle-East give f‌irst names
to their children that are different from those given by the French majority population. Though
we f‌ind a correlation between religiosity and our name index for European immigrants, the dif-
ferences in naming practices cannot generally be attributed to religiosity as we f‌ind no correla-
tion between our name index and the religious practices of immigrants from the Maghreb/
Middle-East. These differences in the naming patterns are, as one would expect, related to
general cultural references, language, citizenship and educational attainment.
The f‌irst name of a person ref‌lects his/her cultural and socio-economic background due to the sig-
nals a name sends about naming customs and the parentstastes.
Names like FATIMA or
MOHAMMED indicate that the parents of the person carrying such a name probably have their ori-
gin in an Arab country and most likely refer to a Muslim tradition. A name like MOHAMMED is
a distinctively arab/Muslim name. There are other names that could in a similar way ref‌lect the cul-
tural and/or religious background of the parents. CHRISTIAN for example is a name often given
by parents with a background in a Christian tradition. This does not mean that an observer can eas-
ily relate a f‌irst name to a distinct geographical or a religious community. The same name can
appear in various communities. Take for example the name SARA which is given to children in
Muslim, Christian, Jewish and in non-religious communities. This example illustrates the diff‌iculty
of classifying names and attributing them to a country of origin and/or religious or non-religious
To avoid these types of classif‌ication problems, we use instead an index of the relative frequen-
cies of names in different populations, classif‌ied according to their own (or their parents) region of
birth. The main question we focus on is whether the choice of names measured by this index is
related to cultural preferences in general or is tied to religion as such. To answer this question, we
examine whether there is a systematic difference within various immigrant groups in naming prac-
tices with respect to religiosity measured as religious practice.
* Department of Economics and SULCIS, Stockholm University.
** CEPN, University of Paris 13.
*** LEM, University of Paris 2.
doi: 10.1111/imig.12010
©2012 The Authors
International Migration ©2012 IOM
International Migration Vol. 53 (6) 2015
ISSN 0020-7985Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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