What Are Baby Boomers? - Definition, Age & Characteristics

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  • 0:01 Who Are the Baby Boomers?
  • 0:42 Reasons for the Boom
  • 2:24 Defining Characteristics
  • 4:37 The Future of Boomers
  • 5:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gary Gilles

Gary has a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and has been teaching and developing courses in higher education since 1988.

Baby boomers have shaped the cultural landscape for more than 60 years and will continue to have a significant influence as they move into the so-called 'retirement years.' Learn who these baby boomers are and what caused the boom along with key characteristics of this fascinating demographic group. Finally, test your knowledge with quiz questions.

Who are the Baby Boomers?

Baby boomers are a designated group of people who were born between 1946 and 1964. They are labeled as 'baby boomers' because during this period of time, there was a statistically significant increase in the number of births that occurred. In 1946, the first year of the 'boom,' there were 3.4 million babies born in the U.S., a record number during a 1-year period. These numbers steadily increased to roughly four million babies born each year between 1953 and 1964. By the end of 1964, when the trend started to decline, 76.4 million people were born during that 22-year period, which comprised about one-quarter of the U.S. population.

Reasons for the Boom

Though there is no definitive answer as to what caused the baby boom, there are some economic, social and psychological factors that may have combined to create this surge in births between 1946 and 1964. Some historians have put forth the idea that the baby boom was directly related to the end of World War II in 1945. Once the war was over, there was an overall optimistic mood in the country and a period of affluence in the U.S. economy. For example, many women previously employed to help create and supply the material goods necessary for the military were no longer needed. This opened up the opportunity for many of these women to leave the workforce, stay home and start a family.

Many couples, who were uncertain about their future during the war because many of the consumable goods were rationed, now felt confident about moving forward with having children. This confidence stemmed from greater access to consumable goods and higher wages to afford a better standard of living for them and their children.

This prosperity was evident in the rise of suburban living. During the 1950s, developers were buying up land on the outskirts of major cities and building modest, inexpensive houses. For many returning soldiers who could qualify for subsidized low-cost mortgages, it was often less expensive to buy one of these homes in the suburbs than it was to rent an apartment in an urban area. Not only was it less expensive, but these tract homes were often more spacious inside and even afforded some land around the home. The larger homes also enticed couples to have more children because they now had the money and the living space to accommodate a larger family. By the 1960s, suburban living was an extremely popular option for many Baby Boomers.

Defining Characteristics

Baby boomers have often been characterized by the significant social changes they have created. For example, the period of the 1960s was a time of great political and social change in government. In contrast to WWII, where the country rallied around the war effort, baby boomers led the protest against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War on many college campuses in the late 1960s and early 70s.

In the 60s, the baby boomers were quickly labeled as nonconformists due to their unconventional causes. Nonconformists were known for going against social norms, and some of their actions included a liberal expression of their sexuality, experimentation with drugs, the renewed interest in women's rights, recognition of environmental concerns and a preference for rock and roll music. All of these, among others, shaped and defined the baby boomers' generational identity.

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