Now engaged, Jeremy Lin has been thinking about his surname.
Lim, 28, who lives in New York City, said she heard that changing her name to that of her future husband would bring unity and simplicity, but she didn’t want to erase her identity, family heritage and experiences from her name.
“My last name was called at my middle school, high school and college graduations and it’s on every single one of my diplomas,” she said. She is now working on a Ph.D. “I do dream that one day my name will follow the address of ‘doctor’.”
New data shows that young women like Lin are more likely to keep their surnames after marriage.
A new survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center asked more than 2,400 married people and 955 never-married people about their stance on name changes after marriage.
Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center, said the data are only a small part of a larger survey of modern views on marriage and family.
The data showed that 92 percent of men basically kept their surname, 5 percent changed their surname and less than 1 percent linked their first name to their partner’s.
For women, there are more changes.
The tradition of women changing their names after marriage remains strong in the U.S., but views on marriage have been changing, according to the survey.
Most married women in heterosexual relationships (nearly 80%) say they take their husband’s last name. Meanwhile, 14 percent said they kept their last name and 5 percent hyphenated it with their husband’s, the data showed.
But the numbers suggest that age and education played a role in the decision.
About 9 percent of women age 50 and over said they kept their last name, compared with 20 percent of women ages 18 to 49, the survey showed.
26% of women with a graduate degree said they kept it.
Unmarried women were much less likely to report planning to follow their partner’s last name. Only 33% said they would do so, while 23% said they would keep their last name, 17% would hyphenate two last names and 24% were unsure, the data showed.
“I’m open to it, but not limited to it,” said Melanie Mayer, 27, in New York City.
Mayer said she was conflicted about the name change. While she sees the tradition as rooted in patriarchal norms, she does like the idea of nuclear families having the same last name — though she says it doesn’t have to be a man’s name.
“While the idea of adding a last name is great, it also erases a lot of your history,” she added.
Deborah Ashway, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in New Bern, North Carolina, said the shift among younger generations could come as women’s social empowerment progresses.
“Right now it seems like it’s just copycat,” she said. Women “will say, ‘No, I’m going to keep my name.'” It’s a statement of independence. “
Pew doesn’t have past data to compare whether opinions are changing, Parker said.
“But you can look at some demographic differences to see where … that trend might be going,” she added.
Why do women change their names
Why is it so common for American women to take their husband’s surname in heterosexual marriages?
It’s not about culture; it’s about culture. Catherine Orgo, president of the Massachusetts Historical Society, said it all started with the law.
The law, known as the “Hidden Act,” was enacted as British immigrants came to the United States, she said. The law states that women have no legal status at birth, but are protected by their father’s legal status.
When a woman marries, her father’s identity is legally removed and she is absorbed into her husband’s identity, Argo said.
This meant that not only could women not vote, but they could not legally own anything, enter into contracts, have custody of their children, or protect themselves from physical abuse or rape by their husbands.
“When women talk about marriage, we’re talking about becoming a human being,” Argo said. “By concealment, you become one of them, but that person is the husband.”
Over time, Coverture was broken down and improved, but parts of it remain, she added. In the 1960s and 1970s, divorced women didn’t always have honor in their names. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the law began to recognize marital rape, Orgo said.
She added that with the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, it became more common for women to keep their last names when they married, with some people changing their maiden name to something else entirely because it originally came from their father .
Argo added that some women have also started linking their surnames to their husbands’.
To change or not to change?
When it comes to deciding whether to change your name after marriage, the right answer is the one that’s right for you, Ashvi says.
Start by examining your priorities, wishes and needs, she says.
For some, a sense of independence or a challenge to historical power structures may be paramount. For others, Ashway said, the first priority may be getting the entire family — including the children — to share the same last name.
Then, strike up a conversation with your partner. She says it can start by understanding how each person is feeling and exploring values.
One thing to pay attention to is how you feel about your partner’s reactions, Ashvi says. If the marriage is over unless you take that person’s name down, is that a red flag for you?
It should be something that both of you feel good about, she says.
“It really has to be a mutual decision because then you get back into a power differential and that doesn’t make for a good relationship,” Ashvi said.