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What is a 'Baby Boomer'

Baby boomer is a term referring to a person who was born between 1946 and 1964. The baby boomer generation makes up a substantial portion of the North American population, representing nearly 20% of the American public. Baby boomers have a significant impact on the economy, and as a result, baby boomers are often the focus of marketing campaigns and business plans.

BREAKING DOWN 'Baby Boomer'

After the end of World War II, birth rates across the world spiked. The explosion of new infants became known as the baby boom. During the boom, almost 77 million babies were born in the United States alone, comprising nearly 40 percent of the American population. The large increase in population produced a substantial rise in demand for consumer goods, stimulating the postwar economy.

History of the Baby Boomer Generation

Most historians agree that the baby boomer phenomenon most likely involved a combination of factors, including a tendency of women to marry at a younger age and older people becoming more open to having the families that they put off during World War II. A sense of confidence that the coming era would be safe and prosperous pervaded American society. The postwar economy saw increases in wages, thriving businesses, and an increase in variety and quantity of products for consumers.

Accompanying this new economic prosperity was a migration of young families from the cities to the suburbs. The G.I. Bill allowed returning military personnel to purchase affordable homes in tracts around the edges of cities. This led to a suburban ethos of the ideal family comprised of a husband as provider and stay-at-home housewife that tended to isolate and alienate women. Many boomers became dissatisfied with this ethos, which brought on the youth counterculture of the 1960s.

As suburban families began to use new forms of credit to purchase consumer goods such as cars and television sets, businesses also targeted their children with marketing efforts. The popularity of trending toys, film tie-in products, and rock and roll music records gave the economy a much-needed boost.

Baby Boomers and the Economy

As of 2015, the millennial generation has slightly surpassed the baby boomer generation in overall population in the United States. However, many of the almost 75 million boomers have reached retirement age and are unprepared financially. Many plan to live almost exclusively on Social Security despite the ongoing depletion of the system. Many also plan to keep on working, at least part time, past the age of 65 to supplement their retirement incomes. Opinion is mixed as to whether this trend strengthens the economy by maintaining experienced workers in the workforce or weakens it by keeping younger workers from finding jobs.

Another concern is the impact of aging baby boomers on health care systems. Although boomers are living longer, they are not necessarily healthier, and many have inadequate health coverage. Obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol are all on the rise in the boomer population. Cancer and heart disease are still the leading cause of death among boomers.

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