What Is a Baby Boomer?

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A baby boomer is a person who was born between the years of 1946 and 1964. The baby boomer phenomenon began in 1946 after the end of World War II.

In 1946, 3.4 million babies were born in the United States, according to History.com. That was a 20 percent increase from the number of births in 1945. Birth rates were also high in 1947, when 3.8 million babies were born. There were 3.9 million births in 1952, and over four million babies were born annually between the years of 1954 and 1964. By the year 1964, which marks the end of the baby boom era, there were 76.4 million baby boomers in the United States. Collectively, that group accounts for 40 percent of the population.

World War II and the Baby Boom
Historians attribute the baby boomer phenomenon to several sources. The main reason for the sudden surge in birth rates in 1946 was the return of soldiers after World War II ended. Approximately nine months after the men started returning, the baby boom started. The demographic of women giving birth included older women, who waited until after the Great Depression and World War II to have children, and younger women eager to start families. In 1940, the average age of women who married was 22. In 1956, the average age at which women married dropped to 20.

Economic Factors of the Baby Boom
Another reason for the high birth rates from 1946 to 1964 was the strong post-war economy. Corporations become larger and expanded their business operations, and labor unions succeeded in getting better wages and working conditions for workers. Job security and income levels rose alongside the strong economy, which created an incentive for spending. Consumer goods become more commonplace as the economy grew, and couples found they could afford to have children and raise them in comfortable living environments. Economic prosperity went hand in hand with a shifting of families out of cities and into the suburbs. The move to the suburbs was facilitated by the G.I. Bill, which offered low mortgage rates to soldiers, which made buying a home cheaper than renting an apartment in the city.

Baby Boomers and Consumerism
The expanding baby boomer population fueled demand for consumer goods, which ultimately played a key role in the development of the middle class in America. Marketers and corporations saw opportunity in the new, large number of affluent households. As they marketed electronics like televisions and radios to adults, they began targeting children with consumer products, too. Children, for instance, could buy clothing and attire that showed support for their favorite Disney movie characters and film actors.

The baby boomer generation remains an important part of the economy. They are the longest-living generation in the country's history, and they contribute about $420 billion annually in federal income taxes, according to Investopedia. The baby boomer generation is also a significant source of consumer expenses. Although many are nearing retirement age, they are still purchasing goods like automobiles and using new technologies. Advances in healthcare and medicine are helping baby boomers live longer, and experts worry the large number of aging baby boomers could strain the nation's healthcare system.