Childhood Last Name Predicts Whether You Buy Early, Late: Study

FRIDAY Jan. 21, 2011 -- The first letter of your childhood surname may influence your consumer behavior as an adult, according to a new study.

U.S. researchers examined how fast adults responded to opportunities to buy items they wanted, and they found that those with childhood last names that began with a letter that appeared later in the alphabet tended to be the quickest purchasers.

However, this effect wasn't seen with surnames that had changed because of marriage.

The study will be published in the August issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Children with last names that begin with letters that appear later in the alphabet are often at the end of lines or at the back of the class, noted researchers Kurt A. Carlson of Georgetown University and Jacqueline M. Conard of Belmont University.

"The idea holds that children develop time-dependent responses based on the treatment they receive," the researchers wrote in a journal news release. "In an effort to account for these inequities, children late in the alphabet will move quickly when last name isn't a factor; they will 'buy early.'"

"Likewise, those with last names early in the alphabet will be so accustomed to being first that individual opportunities to make a purchase won't matter very much; they will 'buy late,'" they added.

The researchers concluded that whether "late alphabet consumers" are heading toward a clearance sale, finding a seat to hear live music, or shopping for produce at a farmers' market, they want to make sure they're the first in line.

More information

To learn more about U.S. buying habits, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Posted: January 2011


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