Surname growth, a tale of death and birth of surnames around the world

Like other countries in the world, chinese customs dictate that children keep their father’s surname while the mother’s counterpart doesn’t get passed on. In order for a family to ensure their surname survival they must have at least one male descendant. Introduced in 1978-79, China’s one-child policy is the population control policy of the People's Republic of China. It restricts urban couples to only one child, while allowing additional children in several cases, including twins, rural couples, ethnic minorities, and couples who are both only children themselves.
By comparing different families from around the world to Chinese families, this visualization points the effect of said policy. In contrast with western contemporary families' organic growth, their Chinese counterparts are symmetric, reducing the chance for a surname to be passed on.

All information displayed in this page was gathered from students between twenty and thirty years of age, while studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
Developed under instruction of Alicia Cheng & Sarah Gephart from mgmt design.

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Interesting insights

The effect that the One-child policy has had in chinese families can be best understood when compared to its counterparts in other countries. Having a female descendant has a real impact on the survival of a surname in China, where entire strings of a last name could be lost in one generation.
In contrast, in the United States the addition of two last names in order to form one, could be considered the birth of a new one.


A few forms tried and failed along the development process.