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What's in a Surname? A Lot of Demographic Change What's in a Surname? A Lot of Demographic Change

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What's in a Surname? A Lot of Demographic Change


Although Garcia is the nation's most common HIspanic surname, Joe Garcia, D-Fla., is the sole member of Congress with that name.(Courtesy of the Joe Garcia Campaign)

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that data are not available to release a list of most common surnames as of the last census, but the chart below shows the change from 1990 to 2000.

In 2000, the U.S. Hispanic population was 34 million, or about 12% percent of the total, according to figures from the Pew Hispanic Center; so, considering the increase for 2011 – too nearly 52 million, or a jump to 17%, you can imagine a few more Hispanic surnames, or at least a greater frequency, among the most common last names in America nowadays.


Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Hispanic surnames among the 20 most common grew from two to five. Toggle between the two years to see the most common names, at left, in larger blocks. 

In 2000, the number of individuals whose last name was Smith was 2,376,206; those whose last name was Garcia numbered 858,289 - the eighth-most prevalent surname - followed closely by Rodriguez at 804,240.


Surnames make a difference, in politics and beyond. Here’s an earlier Next America story about the possibility of bias in the voting booth.

Surname Racial Bias? Winners and Losers in 2012 Election

Meantime, our sister publication, Quartz, offers an explanation from a man formerly named Crouch who has assumed the maiden name of his fiancé’s maternal grandmother.

Why Men Should Change Their Last Name When They Get Married



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