|So What's a Boomer, Anyhow?
Glad you asked. Stated very simply, the demographers, sociologists and the media define baby boomers as those born between (and including) 1946 and 1964. (There is no law or constitutional amendment so stating; and other boundaries have been suggested. But this is the time frame most commonly used.) In 2012, that would make us between 48 and 66 years old. There are about 75 million boomers in the U.S.; we currently represent about 29% of the U.S. population. (In Canada, we are sometimes known as "Boomies"; there are 6 million of us there. In Britain, our generation is known as "the bulge.")
The term is used (nobody knows who coined the phrase) to define the "boom" in births after WWII. Our Boomer Stats page identifies the number of U.S. births during the 40s, 50s and 60s.
The 1960s is the decade that defined the boomers. The music, events, and the social changes made a permanent impression on us. Those of us born during the "peak" boomer years, '52-'57, were in our formative years during the sixties. There were so many changes in the sixties that how old you were during the decade greatly affected how you turned out. 1961 was a whole lot different from 1969!
Those born at the early end of the spectrum were in our early 20s by 1970. The deaths of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King; the Vietnam war and related protests; and the Watergate scandal... all made deep impressions on us.
At the other end, those born after 1959 have no direct recollection of the assassination of President Kennedy; most were not yet listening to rock music by the time the Beatles broke up. Buddy Holly, the Shirelles, Peter & Gordon, Leslie Gore, Dion, Nat Cole, Herman's Hermits, the Mamas & Papas, Frankie Avalon, the Platters, the Drifters, the Everly Brothers, the Four Tops, and other great music artists of the 50s and 60s are not part of the foundation of their music tastes. They were more likely to use illegal drugs.... often to a great and disturbing excess. And they were never subjected to the military draft. So any attempt to lump us all together probably won't work. We can tell, by the e-mail we receive here at BBHQ, that there is much that ties us together, but also much that separates us.
Our e-mail indicates that many of us are committed to marriage and are still happily married to our high school sweethearts. And many of us have been married and divorced... more than once. We are the generation that pushed the divorce rate up to 50%... and made it seem "normal" and thus acceptable.
Many of us went to work for a company, worked our way up the ladder, and are now enjoying the fruits of our labors. We will retire in a few years, and live a life of leisure, or embark on a second career. But many of us are entrepreneurs, and have never worked for a big company. Many of us plan never to retire.
The "First" Boomer
As with most issues related to the boomers, there is some dispute as to who the first boomer is -- the first baby born after midnight on the night of December 31, 1945. In 1980, author Landon Y. Jones found an account in the Philadelphia Inquirer which identified Kathleen Casey-Kirschling as having been born at one second after midnight. Though others may claim to be the first, the media has selected Ms. Casey-Kirschling as the first boomer.
The First Boomer
Impact on the Economy
We are amused when visitors ask what effect the boomers are having on the economy. Folks, in 2012, the economy IS the boomers! We represent the vast majority of the work force. There are 75 million of us; we ARE the economy. (That is not bragging; that is just a statistical reality.) The huge growth in the economy since the 90s is due, in large part, to 75 million of us working up to our peak earning and spending years. What are we spending our money on? Other than Metallica CDs and movies aimed at 15 year-olds, whatever is being sold... we are buying it. What kind of cars are we buying? What kind are Detroit and Japan selling? We ARE the upper end of the automobile market. What explains the popularity of SUVs? Mostly, we do. Where do we go on vacation? Everywhere. How do we get there? Every way possible. Day care centers are thriving because boomers do not want to take care of the kids they produced. And their offspring think it is supposed to be that way. (Parents are not supposed to stay home and raise their children. Why, that's a terribly stupid idea, huh? That is what day care centers and the government is for.)
In the 50s, businesses focused on stuff for kids.... 30 million boomers... and still growing. Gerber (the baby food company) was huge in the 50s. Toys.... there was an enormous growth in the variety and quantity of toys. ("You can tell its Mattel; it's swell!") And TV, just coming into its own, focused heavily on kids' shows. Disneyland.... a 50s thing. (Disneyworld.... a 70s thing, paid more attention to history and thrill rides.... things of interest to young adult boomers.) The stylish cars of the 60s and 70s -- a direct response to the boomers.
The huge explosion in recreational vehicles in the 90s.... a direct response to empty-nest boomers.
And much as it makes my skin crawl, the first half of the 21st century will see a huge explosion in stuff for aging boomers: active retirement communities and vacation homes, skin creams, tooth whitening goo, cosmetic surgery, lasik surgery, Depends, and, of course, the Hair Club for Men. -- Like I said, it makes my skin crawl.
As (relatively) old and aging as we are, we are still the largest age-related demographic.... "numbers too big to ignore."
Aside from that, what impact on society are boomers having? Well, let's see now... the CEO of General Electric is a boomer; the CEO of IBM is a boomer; the CEO of Ford is a boomer; Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) are boomers; Steven Spielberg is a boomer; Ron Howard is a boomer; Tom Hanks is a boomer; Denzel Washington is a boomer; Meg Ryan is a boomer; Michael Jordon is a boomer. The producers of most TV shows and movies are boomers. The editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal (Paul Gigot) is a boomer. Rush Limbaugh is a boomer; Oprah is a boomer; Barack Obama is a boomer; Mitt Romney is a boomer. Madonna is a boomer; Bruce Springsteen is a boomer; Tom Cruise is a boomer; David Letterman is a boomer; Jay Leno is a boomer; Dr. Laura is a boomer. Clarence Thomas is a boomer; Sean Hannity is a boomer; Glenn Beck is a boomer; Al Gore is a boomer; Bill and Hillary Clinton are boomers; Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve System, is a boomer; Sarah Palin is a boomer; George Bush is a boomer; Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is a boomer; every potential candidate for the Supreme Court for the next 20 years will likely be a boomer.
How's that for impact?
We have a list of about 300 famous boomers here.
Baby Boomer HeadQuarters is the spot on the web for Baby Boomers and those with the boomer spirit. Hershel M. Chicowitz, Boomer-In-Charge, is a spokesman for the boomer generation; but he does not claim to represent all boomers.
Reprinted from www.bbhq.com/whatsabm.htm