HomeLearning CenterA Tradition Going Strong: Brides Who Take Their Husbands’ Names

A Tradition Going Strong: Brides Who Take Their Husbands’ Names

Originally published by Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times

When Irene Evran, formerly Irene Yuan, married Colin Evran three years ago — in a civil ceremony on Zoom during the depths of the pandemic — the decision to take his name felt like a natural one.

Her mother had kept her maiden name, as is traditional in China, where they are from. But Ms. Evran thought it would be easier to share a name with her husband and their future children. It was important to him, she said, and she liked how his name sounded with hers.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” said Ms. Evran, 35, of San Francisco. “There may be deep-rooted traditional influence, but it felt pretty simple and straightforward.”

The bridal tradition of taking a husband’s last name remains strong. Among women in opposite-sex marriages in the United States, four in five changed their names, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center.

Fourteen percent kept their last names, the survey found. The youngest women were most likely to have done so: A quarter of respondents who were 18 to 34 kept their names.

Hyphenated last names were less common — about 5 percent of couples across age groups took that approach — and less than 1 percent said they did something different, like creating a new last name. Among men in opposite-sex marriages, 5 percent took their wife’s name.

Marital naming has become yet another way in which Americans’ lives diverge along lines of politics and education. Among conservative Republican women, 90 percent took their husbands’ name, compared with 66 percent of liberal Democrats, Pew found. Eighty-three percent of women without a college degree changed their names, while 68 percent of those with a postgraduate degree did.

The women who keep their names are likely to be older when they marry, research shows, and to have established careers and high incomes. They have invested in “making their name” professionally, said Claudia Goldin, an economist studying gender at Harvard who co-wrote a paper with that title with Maria Shim.

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