You could be excused for thinking otherwise, given headlines like these:
“Baby Name Karen Falling in Popularity” — Fox News
“No surprises there! Popularity of the name ‘Karen’ drops to its lowest since the 1930s” — Daily Mail
“The Baby Name ‘Donald’ Continues To Decline In Popularity” — HuffPost
“Names Donald & Karen Dropping In Popularity” — iHeartRadio
Did the two names decline? Sure. Did they reach modern lows in popularity ranking? Of course. That’s what out-of-fashion names do. Karen peaked in popularity in 1956, Donald back in 1934, and both names have been declining for generations. A jump up for either name would have been a story, but “60-year trajectory continues unchanged” is no story at all.
Karen actually shows impressive staying power as the 660th most popular girl’s name in America. Most of her cohort—Susan, Diane, Sharon, Kathy, Brenda, Donna, Denise, Pamela, etc.—fell out of the top 1000 years ago. As for Donald, here’s a sampling of other boys’ names that also hit all-time lows this year: Edward, Ronald, Raymond, Richard. Spot the pattern?
The real problem isn’t that reporters decided it would be fun to look at the baby names Karen and Donald. The problem is that these were the only stories about the national name data that most outlets ran. In other words, they didn’t actually look at the data at all to see if it had anything to say. And boy, did it ever.
Names talk. You just have to listen.