Hillary Rodham Versus Hillary Clinton: Consequences of Surname Choice in Marriage
In this paper I expand on the current literature regarding how women are perceived by surname choice with a vignette experiment conducted in a diverse sample (N = 1243) of the U.S. and ordered logistic regression to evaluate (1) how committed respondents think a woman is as a wife by her last name choice and (2) whether a woman’s last name choice causes individuals to hold her to different standards (a backlash effect). I describe the woman’s behavior in marriage in order to see if surname choice matters beyond information on how the woman is “performing.” In addition, I examine whether name change varies depending on the educational attainment and gender of the evaluator. While overall, last name choice appears to have little impact on how women are viewed among women and highly educated men, I find that men of low education view women who retain their surnames in marriage as less committed wives. These men also think women who retain their surnames should be held to higher standards than women with their husbands’ last names. My results follow scholarship that finds that men of lower education are more protective of overt instances of the gender hierarchy, of which surname practices are an important example.