Comparative Study of the Naming Choices of Chinese and Indian Americans

My research seeks to answer why different ethnic groups of Asian Americans adopt American first names at distinct rates, to what extent first names affect one’s identification with their ethnic origin, and how does gender moderate the naming process. The project was motivated by personal observations: I found that my East Asian peers all have Americanized first names while most of my South Asian peers have first names that signal their ethnic origin–a pattern I subsequently confirmed using the California Birth Index. The quantitative discovery intrigues me to further qualitative research. Through in-depth interviews with first- and second-generation Asian Americans of Chinese or Indian descent, I seek to uncover the motivation and consequences behind different naming practices. Given previous literature’s consensus on the adverse effects of racially identifiable names and name-changing as an assimilation strategy, it is particularly interesting how two groups of immigrants display distinct naming patterns.