Baby Boomers

Baby boomers, often shortened to boomers, are the demographic cohort following the Silent Generation and preceding Generation X. The generation is often defined as people born from 1946 to 1964 during the mid-20th century baby boom. The dates, the demographic context, and the cultural identifiers may vary by country. Most baby boomers are the children of either the Greatest Generation or the Silent Generation, and are often parents of Gen Xers and Millennials. In the West, boomers’ childhoods in the 1950s and 1960s had significant reforms in education, both as part of the ideological confrontation that was the Cold War, and as a continuation of the interwar period. Theirs was a time of economic prosperity and rapid technological progress. In the 1960s and 1970s, as this relatively large number of young people entered their teens and young adulthood—the oldest turned 18 in 1964—they, and those around them, created a very specific rhetoric around their cohort, and the social movements brought about by their size in numbers, such as the counterculture of the 1960s and its backlash. In many countries, this period was one of deep political instability due to the postwar youth bulge. In China, boomers lived through the Cultural Revolution and were subject to the one-child policy as adults. These social changes and rhetoric had an important impact in the perceptions of the boomers, as well as society’s increasingly common tendency to define the world in terms of generations, which was a relatively new phenomenon. This group reached puberty and maximum height earlier than previous generations. In Europe and North America, many boomers came of age in a time of increasing affluence and widespread government subsidies in postwar housing and education, and grew up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Those with higher standards of living and educational levels were often the most demanding of betterment. In the early 21st century, baby boomers in some developed countries are the single biggest cohort in their societies due to sub-replacement fertility and population aging. In the United States, they are the second most numerous age demographic after millennials.

Etymology

The term baby boom refers to a noticeable increase in the birth rate. The post-World War II population increase was described as a “boom” by various newspaper reporters, including Sylvia F. Porter in a column in the May 4, 1951, edition of the New York Post, based on the increase of 2,357,000 in the population of the U.S. from 1940 to 1950. The first recorded use of “baby boomer” is in a January 1963 Daily Press article by Leslie J. Nason describing a massive surge of college enrollments approaching as the oldest boomers were coming of age. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the modern meaning of the term to a January 23, 1970, article in The Washington Post.

Date range and definitions

United States birth rate (births per 1,000 population per year): The segment for the years 1946 to 1964 is highlighted in red, with birth rates peaking in 1949, dropping steadily around 1958, and reaching prewar Depression-era levels in 1965.
A significant degree of consensus exists around the date range of the baby boomer cohort, with the generation considered to cover those born from 1946 to 1964 by various organizations such as the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Pew Research Center, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Reserve Board, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Gallup,[33] YouGov[34] and Australia’s Social Research Center. The United States Census Bureau defines baby boomers as “individuals born in the United States between mid-1946 and mid-1964”. Landon Jones, in his book Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (1980), defined the span of the baby-boom generation as extending from 1946 through 1964. Others have delimited the baby boom period differently. Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, in their 1991 book Generations, define the social generation of boomers as that cohort born from 1943 to 1960, who were too young to have any personal memory of World War II, but old enough to remember the postwar American High before John F. Kennedy’s assassination. David Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century (1997), defined a Canadian boomer as someone born from 1947 to 1966, the years in which more than 400,000 babies were born. He acknowledges, though, that this is a demographic definition, and that culturally, it may not be as clear-cut. Doug Owram argues that the Canadian boom took place from 1946 to 1962, but that culturally, boomers everywhere were born between the late war years and about 1955 or 1956. Those born in the 1960s might feel disconnected from the cultural identifiers of the earlier boomers. French sociologist Michèle Delaunay in her book Le Fabuleux Destin des Baby-Boomers (2019), places the baby-boom generation in France between 1946 and 1973, and in Spain between 1958 and 1975. Another French academic, Jean-François Sirinelli, in an earlier study, Les Baby-Boomers: Une génération 1945-1969 (2007) denotes the generation span between 1945 and 1969.
Baby boomers are sometimes referred to as the “Vietnam generation” due to the significance of the War in Vietnam. In the United States, roughly 1 in 10 baby boomer men served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Some of them were deployed to Vietnam.
The Office for National Statistics has described the UK as having had two baby booms in the middle of the 20th century, one in the years immediately after World War II and one around the 1960s with a noticeably lower birth rate (but still significantly higher than that seen in the 1930s or later in the ’70s) during part of the 1950s.Bernard Salt places the Australian baby boom between 1946 and 1961. In the US, the generation can be segmented into two broadly defined cohorts: the “leading-edge baby boomers” are individuals born between 1946 and 1955, those who came of age during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights eras. This group represents slightly more than half of the generation, or roughly 38,002,000 people. The other half of the generation, usually called “Generation Jones”, but sometimes also called names like the “late boomers” or “trailing-edge baby boomers”, was born between 1956 and 1964, and came of age after Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. This second cohort includes about 37,818,000 people. Others use the term Generation Jones to refer to a cusp generation, which includes those born in the latter half of the Baby Boomers to the early years of Generation X, with a typical range of 1954 to 1965.
LIFE Magazine September 14, 1962

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