What an actuary has to do with baby names

Have you ever used, or pointed users to, the Baby Name section of the Social Security web site?  Do you know the section’s history?  I learned about it this weekend from the What’s in a Name episode of the radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge.  The segment “What Not to Name Your Baby” features an interview with Michael Shackleford, an actuary working at the SSA’s Office of the Chief Actuary, talking about what motivated him to write the program tabulating which were most popular at a given time.  Shackleford’s efforts were first publicly documented in the government publication  Actuarial Note #139, Name Distributions in the Social Security Area, August 1997.  This publication was distributed to Federal Depository Libraries under item number 0516-F (online), with the SuDoc number SSA 1.25:139 .

On the current Baby Name site, you can look up

Not sure what an actuary does?  According to the entry in the Department of Labor’s 2016-2017 Occupational Outlook Handbook,

“Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk.”

You may want to investigate this profession further, because, according to the OOH, “Employment of actuaries is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

(Both quotations from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Actuaries,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/actuaries.htm (visited June 21, 2016).)
Beth Harper, Government information/reference librarian, Memorial Library, UW-Madison