Temporal Stratification of Taste : The Social Diffusion of Firts Names
Because it involves objectifying esthetic preferences in official records, parents’ choice of name for their newborn child is one of the best materials for empirically testing the classical hypothesis of vertical social diffusion of taste. The present study is based on a representative sample (N=367,000) of first names of persons born in France between 1930 and 1988. The proportion of innovative choice (i.e., choice made at the very beginning of the diffusion process) in the various socio-occupational categories provides an indicator for a temporal hierarchy of taste. This hierarchy, which corresponds closely to the nomenclature of socio-occupational categories used by the French national statistics institute INSEE (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques), tends to become compressed over time. To grasp the full meaning of the temporal stratification of taste, the hierarchy obtained with this indicator is compared to those for the various standard dimensions of social stratification.