Fastest growing and declining surnames in the U.S.

Written by: Randy Olson

Primary Source: Randal S. Olson

Since my teens, I’ve been curious how many Olsons there are out there. I’ve seen some “celebrity” Olsons and even made friends with a couple Olsons throughout my life, but I’ve always assumed that Olson is a fairly rare last name. To my glee, just yesterday I discovered that the U.S. Census Bureau releases lists of the most common surnames in the U.S. every 10 years. I was quick to look up my surname: 163,502 Olsons in 2000, up +19.5% from 1990. The Olsonian empire is growing!

If you want to look yours up, here’s the raw data: 1990 | 2000

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. Below, I plotted the fastest growing and declining surnames in the U.S. from 1990-2000. If you take note of the racial/ethnic background of the surnames, you’ll see an eye-opening trend: Hispanic/Latino surnames are rapidly growing, whereas White/Black surnames are steadily declining in the U.S. (I grouped White/Black because most of the declining surnames were evenly split between White/Black.)

us-census-surnames

For those who follow the news, this finding should be fairly unsurprising: Hispanics/Latinos have been leading the U.S. in population growth for quite some time now. So while Lopez is probably gonna be alright, Jackson will soon have to beat it from the most common surname charts.

Just for fun, here’s the growth trends for some celebrity surnames:

  • Roberts: 366,215 in 2000 (-3.8% from 1990)
  • Ford: 178,397 (-12.5%)
  • Carey: 54,924 (+16.2)
  • Monroe: 53,475 (-2.3%)
  • Hanks: 17,141 (+14.9%)
  • Pitt: 8,666 (-12.9%)
  • Eastwood: 5,113 (+2.8%)
  • Bieber: 4,294 (-13.7%)
  • Cruise: 3,058 (-38.5%)
  • Johansson: 2,429 (-2.3%)

The U.S. Census Bureau hasn’t released the list for 2010 yet, but as soon as they do, I’ll update this post.

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Randy Olson is a Computer Science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University in Dr. Chris Adami’s lab specializing in artificial intelligence, artificial life, and evolutionary computation. He runs a research blog where he writes about Python, scientific computing, evolution, and AI. Randy is an ardent advocate of open science and regularly travels the U.S. to teach researchers scientific computing skills at Software Carpentry workshops.