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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Regional Variation in North American Women’s Surname Choices

D L Lillian
East Carolina University, United States

Until the 1970’s, most women and men in the United States and Canada erroneously believed that the law required a woman to adopt her husband’s surname upon marriage. The present paper, part of a longitudinal study of women’s naming preferences, reports on recent survey data I have gathered from approximately 3,000 respondents across Canada and the United States. Aggregate results show that 24% of the women surveyed did not change their surname when they married, and that 45% of women would not change their surname if they married in the future. However, the likelihood of a woman taking her husband’s surname and the attitudes of both women and men toward women’s surname choices vary according to age, region, and educational/professional status. In this paper, I focus on regional differences within the overall patterns of surname preferences, using the U.S. census regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West) and the nine divisions within those as a basis for classifying regions within the U.S.A., and the regional designations of Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, West, and North within Canada. The data are analyzed for statistical significance, which in some cases requires that data from under-represented regions or divisions be combined, where appropriate.

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