Noticing fewer and fewer Michaels coming up through the ranks?
There’s a reason for that.
The name ‘Michael’ has been gradually going extinct in the United States, according to newly released data that shows it was given to less than 14,000 baby boys last year – the lowest on record since the year 1940.
It’s a far cry from mere decades ago, when ‘Michael’ topped the list of baby boy names for 43 out of 44 years – the longest reign for males throughout the 20th Century.
It was the ninth most popular boy name in the 1940s, when it was given to 336,556 children. Topping the list at that time were the names ‘James’ (given to 795,663 boys) and 'Mary' (given to 640,012 girls.)
‘Michael’ was the second most popular name by the 1950s, and a decade later it snagged the top spot with 833,343.
It held this ranking for 30 years, but was dethroned by ‘Jacob’ in the 1990s. Between 2010 and 2016, a measly 109,542 boys were christened Michael.
Some attribute the name’s former popularity to icons like late pop star Michael Jackson, actor Michael J. Fox and basketball star Michael Jordan.
It’s believed the name has fallen out of favour as more and more parents opt for ‘unique’ monikers. But 51-year-old Michael Shackleford, an employee of America's Social Security Administration, may be partially to blame.
Shackleford has claimed that, burgeoned by his annoyance over the popularity of his name by the time his wife became pregnant in 1996, he used a one percent sample of Social Security card applications to find out which names were the most popular so that he could avoid them.
This project turned into the federal rankings now used to tally the 1,000 most popular baby names in the U.S.
“It was a personal goal of mine to kill [the name Michael],” Shackleford told The Wall Street Journal. “By itself it’s a fine name, but if any name becomes too popular, it just ruins it.”