What Is a Baby Boomer? Why Are They Called That?

(Last Updated On: January 21, 2020)
What Is a Baby Boomer? Why Are They Called That?

We all know that every generation gets a label that becomes used to refer to the group. From The Silent Generation to Generation X to Baby Boomers to Millennials to Generation Z, we’ve heard all the names. But, do you know exactly what group they refer to and how each group got its unique name in the first place? Let’s take a look at what exactly a “Baby Boomer” is and how the generation got its name.

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What Is a Baby Boomer?

A baby boomer is a person born in the years following World War II. More specifically, a person born between 1945 to 1964. In the United States, the group is further broken down into two separate categories. The first group, called the “Leading-Edge Baby Boomers,” refers to individuals born between 1946 and 1955. This group of individuals came of age during the Vietnam War. They were also heavily impacted by the social movements of the 1960s. 

The second group, called the “Trailing-Edge Baby Boomers,” refers to individuals born between 1956 and 1964. This group is likely too young to remember, much less understand, the implications of the social movements that happened in the 1960s. However, Trailing-Edge Baby Boomers were heavily impacted by the detritus of the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, as well as the Watergate scandal. 

Why Are They Called Baby Boomers?

Baby Boomers or “Boomers” got their name from the skyrocketing birth rates following World War II. It is estimated that, on average, approximately 4.2 million babies were born each year in the United States between the years of 1946 and 1964. 

There were a number of reasons for this baby boom following the war. Firstly, an influx of soldiers returned home from fighting. Wary from battle, many of these soldiers were eager to reunite with their partners, settle down, and start families.

In addition, the GI Bill that was passed after the war sent 8 million veterans back to school between 1945 and 1956. Furthermore, the bill promised home loans, unemployment benefits, and medical care to veterans. The bill helped fuel economic prosperity in the United States. Families were more hopeful than ever for their futures and couples felt confident that they could comfortably support large families. 

When searching for explanations for the post-war baby boom, the government propaganda that was released after the war cannot be overlooked. Much of the messaging during this time tapped into the notion of cultivating the American dream, or, in other words, a “normal” suburban family as a way to counteract the anxiety around atomic bombs in the post-war era. It is believed that this too contributed to the increase in births in the years following World War II.

Baby Boomers Today

Baby Boomers make up a large portion of the world’s population. This is especially true in more developed nations. In the United States alone, there are approximately 74 million baby boomers. This accounts for about 22% of the nation’s population. As a result of growing up in an economically prosperous time, Boomers tend to have a positive and hopeful outlook for the future. However, today’s realities are quite different from those of the post-World-War-II era. 

Today, Boomers are a group that have a significant impact on the economy. Specifically, there is much talk of how the retirement of the baby boomer generation will impact the younger generations. Additionally, many are concerned with the impact this aging population will have on the healthcare system. 

While there are certainly many concerns related to the future and the impact this substantial subset of the population will have on economy and healthcare, perhaps we ought to take a page out of Baby Boomer book and look to the future with a hopeful and optimistic attitude. After all, hard work and a good attitude can take us all a long way!

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