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Female Surname Choice: Historical, Cultural, and Branding Influences at Duke University

By Corinne Grzbowski

Female surname choice at marriage depends on a range of historical, cultural, and branding factors. Two of the three datasets are administrative datasets from the Duke University Alumni Association (DAA), which include every female Duke alumnae from 1960-2000. The third dataset comes from a survey administered to Duke alumnae. We find that the fraction of ―keepers,‖ women who retain their surname instead of taking their husband‘s name, has increased since the 1970s, with a statistically significant peak in the undergraduate class of 1990. We also find evidence of branding: women who spend time developing their name through higher education or a more visible career are more likely to keep their surname upon marriage.

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Advisor: Marjorie McElroy

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