PROJECT M
 

Defining the baby boom

A much used buzzword, the term baby boomer is only loosely defined

Greg Langley & Richard Wolf
© mauritius images / Alamy

Defining the baby boom

A much used buzzword, the term baby boomer is only loosely defined

Greg Langley & Richard Wolf

The 19-year stretch

The baby boom in the US covers a long period of 19 years from 1946 to 1964. Early boomers – beginning with Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, whose birth one second past midnight on New Year’s Day, 1946, has made her a minor celebrity – grew up surrounded by the hippie counterculture, the music of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, and the Vietnam war.

By contrast, the boomers of 1964 grew up playing video games and listening to disco music. Interests are not all that sets the extreme ends of the baby boom generation apart. While many of the early boomers are now comfortably retired, enjoying the benefits of Medicare, Social Security, and tax-free Roth IRA disbursements, there are those still in their prime – and concerned about retirement.

By 2031, when next to all baby boomers will be retired, more than 20% of the US population will be at least 65 years old, compared with only 13% in 2010. As a result, the old-age dependency ratio (the number of people aged 65 or over relative to the working-age population) is set to rise from 1:5 to 1:3. This will intensify pressure on state pension funds and health-care systems.

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