The Baby Boomer Generation—Birth Years, Characteristics, and History

November 25, 2020  - by 
baby boomer generation grandparents with kids

The “Baby Boomer Generation” refers to people who were born during the years following World War II. Though the term “baby boomer” wouldn’t be used for this generation until 1963, the boomers were the largest generational group in the United States until very recently.

Note: The review of the Baby Boomer Generation and other generations mainly apply to the United States. Globally, countries often have different names and ways of defining generations.

When Was the Baby Boomer Generation?

Although there is some variation depending on the birth years that comprise the Baby Boomer Generation, a widely accepted range is 1946–1964. This range is used by the Pew Research Center. The parents of the baby boomers were members of the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation.

baby boomer couple on the beach

What Is the Baby Boomer Generation Known For?

Baby boomers got their name from a phenomenon known as the baby boom. This boom was a spike in birth rates after World War II. In the United States, around 3.4 million babies were born in 1946, more than ever before in United States history. This trend continued, with 3 to 4 million babies being born each year from 1946 to 1964. These births led to a total baby boom population of nearly 72.5 million, the largest generational cohort in the United States at the time.

What Caused the Baby Boom?

This rapid rise in births is attributed to many causes. In some cases, those who wanted families had waited until after the war was over to have children. By this time, the Great Depression’s economic turmoil and the war were finally subsiding. Soldiers returned home ready to start families and hoped to provide a better life for their children. Through the G.I. Bill, many veterans were afforded economic and educational opportunities, allowing them to own homes and support children.

Baby Boomer Characteristics

couple holding hands in woods

While there is no one way to describe an entire generation of people accurately, here are some general characteristics that tend to be seen in baby boomers:

  • Baby boomers value relationships. As they grew up, there was a growing belief in the value of spending time with family and friends. This belief was in part due to economic growth and increasing labor laws, which led to more free time.
  • Baby boomers are goal centric. They were raised with the idea of the American dream, and they push themselves to reach their goals.
  • Baby boomers are self-assured. This generation has confidence in themselves and their abilities. They influenced the culture of the nation greatly, and they believe that hard work makes a difference.
  • Baby boomers are resourceful. During their lifetime, members of the baby boomer generation have witnessed some of the greatest technological advances in history, and they often have learned to use the resources available to them. Baby boomers often learn to fix things themselves.

Their Slice of History

The Korean War and the Vietnam War

During their childhood, baby boomers witnessed the Korean War as well as rising tension in Vietnam. They witnessed the effects of those conflicts early in life. When they reached adulthood, many served their country in the Vietnam War. During this time, some baby boomers also participated in the antiwar movement. They were certainly no strangers to national conflict.

Civil Rights Movement

Baby boomers grew up during the height of the civil rights movement. Many young men and women of this generation were influenced by great civil rights activists. The movement promoted legal equality and led to greater tolerance during the adulthood of the baby boomers.

Sputnik, Space, and Education

In 1957, Sputnik was launched into orbit, and the world marveled at the accomplishment. The Sputnik could be seen whizzing across the night sky. This achievement induced a radical change in the education system in the United States. Many felt that the education system had fallen behind, and a new emphasis was put on science and mathematics.

The government began investing huge amounts of resources into research and developing new technologies. This investment opened new opportunities for baby boomers to innovate and change the world of technology. Over a decade later, they witnessed the moon landing.

The Berlin Wall

During their lives, many baby boomers saw almost the entirety of the Cold War. They were born during a period of high tension between the United States and Russia. Many were children when the Berlin Wall was constructed in August 1961 and would have heard the famous line “Ich bin ein Berliner” proclaimed by President Kennedy. Many would also later witness the destruction of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.

Technological Advancement

Baby boomers were born into a world of black and white television and now live in the age of Wi-Fi, smartphones, and machine learning. Many of the earliest computer-age innovators are baby boomers, such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Which Baby Boomers in Your Family Influenced You?

Share the stories of the baby boomers in your family and ask them about their experiences during these pivotal times in history.

You can also compare what life is like today with the life they were born into by trying the “All about Me” discovery experience. Either sign into your FamilySearch account, or use the guest experience to compare the population, award-winning music and media, and other world information of today with the same information from the time of the baby boomers.

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Comments

    1. Thanks, Robert Raymond. It is interesting to read about the history I witnessed. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I was very aware of history in the making and sometimes I wasn’t even aware of what was happening around me. Mostly it was great times.

  1. You left out something: going to school (in my case in Australia) with the children of survivors of the Holocaust and
    being for the rest of my life affected by accounts of these people and the tragedy. It helped build my values of equality and hatred of racism. How could you miss that event? It reverberated in the war crimes trials of the 60s which gave me an ongoing interest in history (as did the Vietnam War and the outcomes for those who were sent to fight as a requirement of a ‘democratic’ conservative government in Australia.

    1. Alyson, thank you for your comment. Truly that is a life changing and greatly significant event. I’m glad you shared the ways in which those things have shaped you as a person. I recognize that this little article is far from comprehensive, and to capture the experience of an entire generation would take mountains more than what I can fit into this post. But I’m grateful that you’ve included it in your comment and am grateful that I continue to learn about how each generation grew up and how that affects all of us. Thank you for helping me learn more by sharing your experiences.

  2. I too am a ‘boomer’ from Canada and bring up Covid-19 and it’s making our children, grandchildren and others feeling they are going through the worst! I remember the polio pandemic that specifically attacked us, the children of the day. I was lucky but family and friends were not. First ‘vaccine’ was on a sugar cube and then a needle later. Remember hiding under your school desk and the sirens during the cold war?