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No name-dropping here: Smith, Jones still among the most common surnames

Venus Williams returns a shot to Karolina Pliskova, of the Czech Republic, during this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament. Her surname remains among the most common over the past three decades, according to the U.S. Census.
Venus Williams returns a shot to Karolina Pliskova, of the Czech Republic, during this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament. Her surname remains among the most common over the past three decades, according to the U.S. Census. AP

American life has changed a lot over the past three decades.

Cell phones are ubiquitous. The income divide has widened. Movies have gotten too long.

But since 1990, five things, excluding Saturday Night Live, which is still on, and a couple of 1960s rock bands, which are still touring, remain unchanged:

Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones and Brown continue to be the most popular surnames in the United States, according to a U.S. Census Bureau analysis of the 2010 Census.

Smith is the undisputed No. 1 name, followed by Johnson, then Williams. Jones and Brown have traded places in popularity over the years.

The Census bureau said these five names remain the most common, “despite the nation’s growing racial and ethnic diversity.”

It noted, however, that Hispanic surnames, such as Garcia – now the sixth most popular surname – are increasingly showing up. Rodriguez and Martinez are not far behind, either.

Joshua Comentz, assistant chief of the Population Division’s Population Geography staff, said more “surname clustering” occurs among Hispanics.

“Twenty-six surnames cover a quarter of the Hispanic population and 16 percent of Hispanic people reported one of the Top 10 Hispanic names,” he said.

Comentz said the pattern is similar for Asians and blacks. Whites have a higher diversity of surnames.

“It takes fewer names to cover a large segment of the Hispanic, Asian or black populations, compared to the white population,” he said.

Of the 6.3 million surnames out there in 2010, Census said that a mere 11 – an amount so small it stumped a web percentage calculator – were reported more than a million times. Sixty-two percent of the names were reported just once.

David Goldstein: 202-383-6105, @GoldsteinDavidJ

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