Today, I follow up on my initial post on names ("What's in a name?"), which later inspired the map of Muslim Lucknow and my ongoing election analyses. The key idea back then was: if micro-level datasets on religion are unavailable, can we not create our own by making informed guesses about the religion of registered voters - lists of which are readily available? This methodology and its surprisingly high accuracy created quite some excitement over the last months, and a "research note" on it is on the way to publication (here). It thus seems to be about time to clarify the limits of this strategy: what is not in a name?
One thing that is not - or at least not clearly enough - is sectarian affiliation. Quite some people who got excited about my earlier posts asked whether the same strategy would also work to separate Shia and Sunni based on their names. This would open interesting analyses in the case of Lucknow in particular (see here), but I honestly did not think it would fly. People insisted, so I gave it a shot - which by and large confirmed my hesitation: inferring sectarian belonging from names is frought with difficulties. That much is clearly not in a name.