Reader John M. complains about "story time" in this New York Times article, which tells us about the trend among immigrants to no longer change their names after arrival. The subtext is a celebration of reduced discrimination and/or xenophobia against foreigners. (They did not say anything about Arizona.)
I agree. The article is prototypical story time: the promise of a data-driven analysis but nothing that approaches quantitative rigor ever materializes; instead, we get free-form speculation.
The only number offered in this entire article is that only about 6 out of 500 name change applications in June 2010 in New York "appeared to be obviously intended to Anglicize or abbreviate the surnames that immigrants or their families arrived with from Latin America or Asia", according to an accounting by the Times.
Even without making a fuss about this number, we must ask how one number can make a trend? What was the rate of change in the past, and what part did discrimination play in these changes?
What's wrong with no data? It becomes "he said, she said". For example, one of the examples given of someone who changed his name was "Tom Lee" aka Wong Ah Ling who was "the unofficial mayor of Chinatown". After mentioning Lee, Anne Bancroft and Charles Steinway, the author wrote this without irony:
The rationale was straightforward: adopting names that sounded more American might help immigrants speed assimilation, avoid detection, deter discrimination or just be better for the businesses they hoped to start in their new homeland.
I don't know who Tom Lee was but come on, if someone was so prominent in Chinatown, how did a name change change his ethnic identity? How did "Tom Lee" sound less Chinese, more American? Okay, I know there is a white dude called Tommy Lee but still, come on. (The author did manage to quote Prof. Nancy Foner later in the article, who essentially contradicted the earlier assertion.)
What's wrong with no data? You get platitudes like "most experts agree," "experts say", "they say," "sociologists say". And for some reason, these experts and sociologists don't use data either.