Take the Marital Name Change Survey


Photo by Drew, Flickr/CC https://flic.kr/p/8r5h3i

As I work on the 3rd edition of The Family (don’t hold your breath, it will be a while), I’m adding more discussion on the issue of marriage and name changes. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of great information about this, especially about the reasons for name changing (or not) and how practices have changed over time. However, I don’t bias your thinking by getting into the literature review here just yet. Instead, I designed a survey.

This is for U.S. residents who have ever been married. If 1,000 of you share this with 1,000 other people, I will have very large convenience sample. Worth a try. It’s anonymous, 28 questions, and took my testers an average of 5 minutes to complete. Thank you!

Click here to enter the survey, and share this post, or this link: https://umdsurvey.umd.edu/jfe/form/SV_8wsMAMubPtpWZiB.



Filed under Me @ work

11 responses to “Take the Marital Name Change Survey

  1. Caren

    I think it is interesting that you didn’t ask about the last names given to shared children.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Emily Shafer

    Hi Dr. Cohen, We’ve never met, but as a family researcher I follow you and your work, of course. I am terribly excited to hear that you are trying to collect marital name change data. I’ve published a couple of times on this topic and have plans to study parents’ choices surrounding kids’ last names next. Back in 2010, I was able to get TESS (Time Sharing Experiments in the Social Sciences) to allow me to tack on a couple questions about marital name change in respondents’ lives when they accepted a vignette experiment of mine on the same topic.

    I also found there was surprisingly little work in this area. If you’re interested, there is a Stanford dissertation by a woman named Brooke Conroy Bass – Shelley Correll was her advisor – that might be of interest. I’ve attached it here. Brooke is no longer in academia and I don’t think she has plans to publish the chapter on name change.

    Btw, I took your survey and had a couple of thoughts (that you didn’t ask for – forgive me for my excitement!): 1) Do you want to ask about the state in which someone got married? I see you ask about current state of residence. Since states institutionalize women’s marital name change to various degrees, it might be relevant. Of course, the percentage of people that move post marriage is small but it might be worth knowing. 2) Do you anticipate folks who hyphenate their last names while their spouses do nothing always choosing “other, please specify”? I can see how I might choose “I took my spouse’s last name” in that scenario. 3) There was no way to clear my responses once I got into the “how much did these things matter to you in your decision” question. I realized too late that I shouldn’t be answering it (I never considered changing my name). Whether folks never even considered changing their names is an interesting data point that could be lost if participants are as bad at reading instructions as I am.

    Obviously, you can take or leave them! I only wanted to offer them up in case they are helpful.

    Again, I am super excited about the research possibilities you will create by collecting this data. I hope to see you at ASA – will you be attending the family section reception? Best, Emily Shafer

    On Tue, Jul 23, 2019 at 8:01 AM Family Inequality wrote:

    > Philip N. Cohen posted: ” As I work on the 3rd edition of The Family > (don’t hold your breath, it will be a while), I’m adding more discussion on > the issue of marriage and name changes. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of > great information about this, especially about the reasons” >


    • Thank you! Readers should have a link to your paper: “Hillary Rodham Versus Hillary Clinton: Consequences of Surname Choice in Marriage.” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12147-016-9182-5. Gender Issues, December 2017, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 316–332.

      I think a vignette is a brilliant way to address this king of thing. I look forward to your research on kids’ names.

      I added states no so much for the effect of state context as for checking the sample representativeness. With an anonymous convenience sample, who knows. I’ll look through the comments for hyphenation responses and see what people said. Maybe should have been an explicit option.

      Thanks again.


  3. Joanna Hunter

    Posted to a very large secret Facebook group of academic mothers (~16K members), which may skew your results.


  4. Pingback: Less than half of women with PhDs in survey keep ‘maiden’ names | Family Inequality

  5. Susan Monroe

    When I married first in 1967, I wanted my new husband to change his last name to mine because he had a brother to carry on the family name, but I’m an only child. He refused. When we divorced, I changed my name back to my birth name. 12 years later I married a progressive guy who is fine with me keeping my birth name. Times have changed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hannah

    Maybe I am reading the survey incorrectly but I was able to complete it because my first marriage was in 1958 at age 20 and my second one (after twenty years living together) was in 1998. I handled the surname issue very differently for each. Interestingly, since my first marriage was while I was in college and since I adopted my husband’s surname, all of my educational degrees and career records were under that name. When we got divorced in the 70’sI kept his name because my two minor children had his last name and because as I said my entire professional life was under that name. When I got married the second time I did not bother to change that situation and my new husband had no problem with that.


  7. Suzanne Campbell

    Can I bring up the issue of aesthetics? Not every surname is equally sonorous, and some hyphenations are tongue-twisters. It’s one thing to hyphenate and get three well-ordered syllables – it’s quite another to end up with a seven-syllable word-sausage. Some lucky couples have names that can easily be combined into a single word – others (like some friends of mine) would get a cuss-word. Also, family history: some people keep their birth names, or shed them, because of the ancestors who did or didn’t share them. And then there are the divorced women – including my former boss – who feel stuck with an ex-husband’s name because they’ve used it professionally for so long, even though they’ve since remarried. I changed my name outright when I married at for the first time 46, ~20 years into my legal career – and you know what, people figured out quickly enough that I was still the same person. Do what you want, the world adapts.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Martha Weston

    Oops. I started survey but my marriage date of 1965 is not an option. I must have been an early adopter! I still have my father’s last name. I’ll see if I can finish survey. I have a PhD and it has been so important I take credit for all my accomplishments in my 1943 birth name. My son has his father’s name.


  9. Martha Weston

    Oops on me. Duh…Just reread instructions and realized survey is about current marriage.


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