We’ve all heard of racism and sexism, but what about alphabetism? Studies have shown that the first letter of your name, which determines your placement in a list of names, could put you at either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on where you are in a list.
Favoritism toward names beginning with letters closer to the start of the alphabet is seen in several aspects of life, from school to the workplace. This can have a significant effect on one’s success, particularly when it comes to determining one’s fortune.
This phenomenon applies to the investing world as well. Two studies published in the Review of Finance journal found that stocks with names closer to the beginning of the alphabet are not only traded more than those that are closer to the end, but they also have higher valuations.
The same trend is seen in mutual funds as well—funds with names closer to the beginning of the alphabet generate more money than those with names that are closer to the end.
“When confronted with a large number of options, individuals often choose the first acceptable option, rather than the best possible option," said one study.
Economists at the University of Colorado found convincing evidence that the first letter of your last name makes quite the difference when it comes to landing jobs.
Jeffrey Zax and Alexander Cauley looked at the data of over 3,000 men who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957 and they found that those with last names further back in the alphabet performed worse in high school, in college, and in their early careers. Though this finding is just a correlation and not necessarily causation, researchers firmly believe that a strong link exists.
"The effect [of the alphabetical rank] is significant, negative, and substantively large," Zax and Cauley added.
Of course, it goes without saying that just because your last name begins with an “S” or a “W” does not mean you are automatically doomed. Despite the psychological factors that may predispose humans to engage in alphabetism, there are always ways for individuals to stand out and rise above it.
"People do find a way to overcome these disadvantages," explained Zax. "Over time, the effect of your last name erodes, and it's replaced by your actual record of accomplishment."