From an email from Couch Scientist:
A suggested addition to your bag of tricks.
Surname Privilege Factor
The federal government employs something like 2.7 million people. Many of their jobs and salaries are listed on this website:
. You can run a surname through the website to get a list of people with that surname and you can then sort by salary. By doing so, you can quickly get a sense of how that surname compares to the average surname. One might call this a “privilege” factor.
For instance, let’s take two surnames. Shapiro (of whom you have written) and Sailer.
Shapiro is one of the more elite Ashkenazi surnames. For example, eight different David Shapiros have Wikipedia pages. While there are many prominent Shapiros, on the other hand, there aren’t that many extremely famous Shapiros (I suspect this is just bad luck.)
Shapiro is a little like Hamilton, the most highbrow of the common British surnames. In the UK, according to economic historian Gregory Clark’s The Son Also Rises, Hamiltons are twice as likely as average to have graduated from Oxford or Cambridge.
Sailer is a pretty run of the mill Germanic surname in the U.S. that is most common in the Dakotas. There are more Sailers in the U.S. than you might think, but Sailers are not particularly prominent.
There are also Seilers and Saylors.
The Shapiro family average is $122,649.02. The average fed by comparison makes $82,709,
There are about 110 federal Shapiros, so the sample size is reasonably adequate.
I would give the Shapiro family a +$40,000 privilege factor (Shapiro average minus Fed average).
On the other hand, Sailers are much fewer in number, at least in working for the Federal Government. There is a small sample size of six, with an average of $65,592.00.
I would give the Sailers a -$17,000 privilege factor.
Take another name. You recently mentioned gubernatorial candidate Pritzker, with whom I am unfamiliar. I ran the name through the website and it only pinged two federal Pritzkers. They were both high earners, with an average of $180,000 in salary. So, that’s a privilege factor +$97,291. Of course the sample size is small.
A sizable fraction of all the Pritzkers in the U.S. are members of the famous Chicago billionaire clan that played a large role in the rise of Barack Obama to the White House. For example, the first time I heard the name “Pritzker” was in the early 1980s from a lady at UCLA business school who had spent a year as a governess in France for a family named Pritzker. Of course, this was not some random Pritzker, but part of the Pritzker clan who owned Hyatt hotels. Of the many Pritzkers I’ve heard of, every single one has been a wealthy Chicago Pritzker.
To use an example from something you have written about Gregory Clark’s research, take the name Percy. Of the 16 Percys, the average is $97,601, a privilege factor of +$14,892.
Percy, such as the Hotspur in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1, is a Norman surname, like Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. The Normans conquered England in 1066 and people with French Norman surnames remain over-represented in the betters jobs in Britain today. Some of that is likely due to name-changing, and I’m not sure how true that is in the U.S.
But it remains a prestigious name. For example, when I moved to Chicago in 1982, Charles Percy was the Republican senator. He was mentioned as Presidential Timber from 1968 to 1988.
Meanwhile, the 40 Thatchers have an average pretty close to the Federal employee average: 85,931 or a moderate privilege factor of +$3,222.
In Britain, Thatcher is a fairly downscale surname. In general, if your namesake had a downscale job like thatching roofs when surnames were chosen around 1300, you’re probably a little downscale today. If you had a literate upscale job like clerk (Clark or Palmer), you are likely to be a little upscale today.
How useful is this factor? My guess is that the distribution of a surname among federal salaries is pretty representative of the surname’s economic distribution as a whole. If that’s true, then I think it is pretty useful information in this day and age when we are looking at privilege.
An interesting question is how much correlation is there between upscale surnames in Britain and the U.S. For example, Hamilton is the best educated common surname in Britain and it’s the name of the most expensive ticket Broadway musical of all time in the U.S.
But is Huntington, a fairly rare but overachieving name in the U.S., as upscale in Britain?