Special Report

These Baby Names Totally Rocked the 1970s

Naming a child is one of the first big responsibilities parents-to-be have, and most try really hard to rise to the occasion. Some are lucky to know exactly what they want to name their baby. Others ask family and friends for advice, consider whether potential nicknames sound funny, and even read Roman mythology. And sometimes, after much consideration, they opt for a classic name, one that won’t cause problems for others to pronounce or spell and one that is likely to be around for a long time — unlike these 25 baby names that are now going extinct

To determine the most popular baby names in the 1970s, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on boy and girl names each year between 1880 and 2018 from the Social Security Administration. We took the 1970-1979 average ranking of each name appearing on any of the SSA’s lists between those years. The names are ranked by the number of boys or girls with a certain name out of the total number of boys and girl births in each year during the 70s.

There is no popular girl’s name from the 70’s that has had the staying power of Michael, though one name was a true stand-out in that decade. Number 98 in the ’50s and number 20 in the ’60s, Jennifer jumped to the very top of the charts in 1970 and remained there until 1984, becoming the second most popular baby name for girls in the ’80s, but falling to number 16 in the ’90s and 39th in the 2000s. By 2018 the name was already considered old fashioned, ranking 345th in today’s popularity rankings.

None of the other top names for baby girls in the 70’s have stood the test of time either: Amy, number 2, was a shooting star in the 70’s, but was no longer among the top 100 by the 2000’s.  Melissa, Michelle, and Kimberly, the next three most popular girls’ names in the ‘70s, stayed in the mix a bit longer, remaining among the top 25 through the last century. Of all the unique, peculiar, and classic names out there,some in particular are becoming more prevalent at an astonishing rate — these are America’s fastest growing first names

Girls Names Number of births (1970-1979) Share of births (1970-1979)
All Female births 15,451,447
Jennifer 581,772 3.77%
Amy 269,001 1.74%
Melissa 253,282 1.64%
Michelle 249,133 1.61%
Kimberly 229,109 1.48%
Lisa 228,684 1.48%
Angela 225,241 1.46%
Heather 203,929 1.32%
Stephanie 160,466 1.04%
Nicole 144,672 0.94%
Jessica 143,491 0.93%
Elizabeth 142,858 0.92%
Rebecca 137,298 0.89%
Kelly 133,563 0.86%
Mary 126,267 0.82%
Christina 125,737 0.81%
Amanda 123,935 0.80%
Julie 121,941 0.79%
Sarah 118,832 0.77%
Laura 118,212 0.77%
Shannon 113,804 0.74%
Christine 103,233 0.67%
Tammy 98,832 0.64%
Tracy 95,539 0.62%
Karen 95,186 0.62%
Dawn 92,443 0.60%
Susan 88,315 0.57%
Andrea 86,426 0.56%
Tina 84,758 0.55%
Patricia 81,104 0.52%
Cynthia 80,211 0.52%
Lori 77,780 0.50%
Rachel 77,765 0.50%
April 76,940 0.50%

A boy’s name that has been immensely popular over the last seven decades topped the list of baby names in every year of the 1970s — an incredible 4.28% of all American children born in those 10 years were given the name Michael. Though still very popular, the name has lost some of its allure only in the last decade, moving from number 2 in 2008 to number 14 in 2018.

Two other boys’ names that popped in the ’70s were Christopher at number 2 and Jason at 3. Christopher moved up dramatically from 20th place in the ’60’s and 49th in the ’50s. Jason, meanwhile, soared even more in the 1970s. The name ranked only 87th in the ’60s and was nowhere to be seen among the top 200 in the previous decade — meaning that Jason was less common than Rex, Arnold, and Milton just two decades before it became the third most popular name for baby boys.

Christopher remained the most popular boy’s name after Michael through the turn of the century, but then began losing its mojo. It is now number 42. Jason was more of a flash in the pan, losing its star power quickly since the ’70s. It was only the 100th most popular boys name in 2018. In contrast, the 4th and 5th most common baby boy names in the ’70s — David and James — never seem to go out of style, with James ranking number 1 for the last 100 years, and David number 6. While these two are unlikely to decline in popularity, many others are — these are the boys and girls names that are disappearing the fastest

Boys Names Number of births (1970-1979) Share of births (1970-1979)
All Male births 16,523,413
Michael 707,647 4.28%
Christopher 475,614 2.88%
Jason 462,928 2.80%
David 445,955 2.70%
James 444,948 2.69%
John 402,841 2.44%
Robert 397,407 2.41%
Brian 322,841 1.95%
William 283,564 1.72%
Matthew 277,959 1.68%
Joseph 244,925 1.48%
Daniel 244,557 1.48%
Kevin 212,367 1.29%
Eric 211,569 1.28%
Jeffrey 202,952 1.23%
Richard 202,880 1.23%
Scott 194,671 1.18%
Mark 194,415 1.18%
Steven 188,174 1.14%
Thomas 186,880 1.13%
Timothy 181,340 1.10%
Anthony 174,941 1.06%
Charles 163,110 0.99%
Joshua 140,396 0.85%
Ryan 139,734 0.85%
Jeremy 139,353 0.84%
Paul 136,473 0.83%
Andrew 133,061 0.81%
Gregory 115,625 0.70%
Chad 113,579 0.69%
Kenneth 111,542 0.68%
Jonathan 107,983 0.65%
Stephen 107,871 0.65%
Shawn 105,824 0.64%
Aaron 101,528 0.61%
Adam 91,812 0.56%
Patrick 91,297 0.55%
Justin 86,580 0.52%
Sean 83,923 0.51%
Edward 83,502 0.51%
Todd 83,374 0.50%
Donald 82,468 0.50%
Ronald 81,771 0.49%
Benjamin 81,388 0.49%

The rise and fall of the top baby names of the ’70s illustrates a difference between boys’ and girls’ name choices in America: While both are subject to trends, there has always been a reliably popular collection of boys’ names that endure over many decades, while girls’ names tend to be more varied and subject to fashion. 

Seven of the 20 most popular boys’ names in the 1920s were also among the top 20 in the ’70s: Robert, John, James, William, Joseph, Richard, and Thomas. There were also seven boys’ names that ranked among the 20 most popular in both the 70’s and the last decade: William, Michael, James, Joseph, David, Matthew, and Daniel. For girls, only Mary and Elizabeth were on both the ’20s and ’70s top 20 list, and only Elizabeth was listed for both the ’70s and the 2010s.