Iowa's most popular baby names: Emma and Liam

Report offers snapshot of state's vital statistics

Liam Edgerly, left, and Emma Patty were both born in 2015, and have the most common names for boys and girls respectively. Taken at Greene Square on Friday, August 5, 2016. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Liam Edgerly, left, and Emma Patty were both born in 2015, and have the most common names for boys and girls respectively. Taken at Greene Square on Friday, August 5, 2016. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Emma and Liam.

Those remain the most popular names for newborns in Iowa.

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among Iowans, and diabetes-related deaths are on the rise.

Teen births have declined.

Meanwhile, Iowa saw the fewest marriages in 53 years and fewest divorces in 83 years last year.

These are just some of the findings in the 2015 Vital Statistics of Iowa in Brief report released last week by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The annual statistics brief tracks births, deaths, marriages, dissolutions and other information. The data, which is compiled for the National Center for Health Statistics, is considered provisional until a full data book with additional metrics is published, likely by the end of the year.

Here’s a closer look at some of the numbers:


Emma was the name given to 200 baby girls in 2015, while Liam went on birth certificates for 215 baby boys. Emma has topped Iowa’s girl name list since 2011, while Liam has been most popular for boys since 2012.

“It’s a name I’ve always liked,” said Alison Edgerly, 26, of Cedar Rapids, who had Liam Fay on July 2, 2015. “We had a short list and that was my husband (Bryan’s) favorite. We didn’t realize it was so popular.”

Anna Patty, 36, of Cedar Rapids, gave birth to Emma Rose on Jan. 6, 2015.

“We wanted her name to flow with her siblings’ names and also her middle name,” Patty said. “Emma means ‘whole’ and, as the last piece to our family puzzle, it was the perfect fit for our little girl. That was her name; she’s an Emma. She just won’t be the only Emma in her class.”

Harper. Olivia, Evelyn and Sophia round out the girls top five, while William, Oliver, Henry and Owen are next for boys.


Local residents favored Lincoln and Jackson as top choices for boys, while Emma and Ava topped girl names, according to UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s Hospital. Linn County saw 18 new Liams and 23 Emmas in 2015, according to the Linn County Recorder’s Office.


Cupid is spending less time in Iowa, which saw 19,542 marriages in 2015, down 8 percent from 21,316 in 2014. It’s the fewest number of marriages in the state since 1963, according to state records.

Still, more marriages are working out than not. For every five marriages, less than one ends in divorce, which is far fewer dissolutions than five years ago when nearly two couples called it quits for every five that said ‘I do.’

The data shows that the 3,823 divorces in 2015 were the fewest in a year since 1933 when 3,686 divorces were recorded. That’s an 83-year low and down 50 percent from the 7,416 divorces in 2011.

Randall Lyle, program director and associate professor of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Mount Mercy University and a practicing clinician in Cedar Rapids, said a few factors are at play.

Society has shifted more secular and away from organized religion, so fewer couples feel faith or moral influence to tie the knot, he said. Fewer marriages are one explanation for fewer divorces, Lyle said.

“The other reason people aren’t getting divorced is they can’t afford it,” Lyle said. “It is increasingly essential to have two incomes to maintain a household. They may have separated but don’t get divorced. They split expenses to keep their heads above water. Economic reports say things are getting better, but for most people it is not.”


Though fewer babies were born in Iowa in 2015 than the year before, Iowa’s population still increased by 16,773 people to 3,123,899 in 2015.


Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

The data shows 39,375 births in 2015, down 0.8 percent from 39,685 in 2014. Linn County saw an increase in newborns from 2,804 in 2014 to 2,851 in 2015, while Johnson County saw a slight year-over-year decrease from 1,824 to 1,808 in 2015.

The number of babies delivered by teens continued to decline, and that’s a good thing, said Kristin Fairholm, executive director of Eyes Open Iowa, a West Des Moines adolescent sexual health agency.

“In Iowa, young people are fortunate enough to have a lot more education being provided to them to prevent pregnancy and STDs, which has helped them make choices leading to the decline and we hope it will continue,” Fairholm said.

The number of births by mothers younger than 20 decreased 22 percent from 2,069 in 2014 to 1,624 in 2015, and numbers have been sliding for six years and are down nearly 50 percent since 2010. In Linn County, teen-delivered babies declined 27 percent from 121 in 2014 to 89 in 2015, while the number increased slightly in Johnson County from 36 to 42.

Increased education and better access to birth control are two factors in the decline, Fairholm said, but maintaining public funding remains an important battle to sustain the effort.


Last year saw 28,518 Iowans die, up nearly 2 percent from 2014. Still, births outnumber deaths. For every four babies born in Iowa, three people die. Johnson County saw 686 deaths last year and Linn County counted 1,719 deaths, both up from the previous year.

Heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease have held the top six cause-of-death spots since 2010, although the latter three have fluctuated positions.

While diabetes remains further down the top 10 list for causes of deaths, it is on the rise.

“We know diabetes has been increasing for a long time,” said Dr. Abha Saxena, a nephrologist at the UnityPoint Clinic Diabetes and Kidney Center. “That population is aging and we are seeing more complications and more deaths related to diabetes,”


From 2013 to 2015, the number of deaths from diabetes spiked 42 percent in Iowa, up from 743 in 2013 to 1,056 in 2015. In Linn County, the number of diabetes-related deaths went from 36 in 2013 to 82 in 2015. Johnson County’s numbers went from 10 in 2013 to 16 in 2015.

The good news is cases of obesity have started to decline, so in the coming decades a related decline in diabetes-related deaths should follow, Saxena said.

























3,123,899 — Iowa’s population

39,375 — Live births

28,518 — Deaths

1,624 — Births to mothers under age 20

10 — Maternal deaths

129 — Infant deaths

6,555 — Death from heart disease

6,301 — Death from cancer

1,056 — Deaths from diabetes

592 — Death from influenza and pneumonia

19,542 — Marriages

3,823 — Divorces

Source: Iowa Bureau of Vital Statistics



CEDAR RAPIDS - Cedar Rapids residents used Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an opportunity to discuss what systemic racism looks like and how it can be addressed.About 50 people attended a panel discussion Monday at St. Paul's United ...

DES MOINES - Iowans used Monday's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Des Moines to press for racial unity in the face of events, actions and words nationally that drive division.Dozens of Iowans who braved cold temperatures ...

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.

Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.