Baby Boomers are regarded as one of the most influential (if not the most influential) generation in recent history. By encompassing nearly 20% of the world’s populations, the societal, economic, and technological impact Baby Boomers have had is astounding and worthy of appraisal. So how did the values that this generation upholds today come to from, and how did it affect subsequent generations?
The Baby Boom
The term Baby Boomer was coined to describe the generation of individuals that were born between 1946 and 1964 immediately following the end of World War II. The high post-war birth rates – which were influenced by a plethora of factors – came to be regarded as what would be a “baby boom” at the time. Unsurprisingly, the inception of the Baby Boomer generation was made possible by the resounding sentiment amongst the American populace that a strong prosperous post-war economy lay ahead.
With economic uncertainty at its lowest since the Great Depression, many couples opted towards settling down and having families of their own. Not only did these families see an increase in wages, but the unprecedented expansion of businesses and products available to them only served to support their progress. As optimism skyrocketed, an entire generation was poised to catapult off the success of their parents.
Baby Boomers Amidst An Evolving World
Similar to numerous historical trends, the rise of the Baby Boomer generation gave way to the transformation of the world as we knew it in many ways. These transformations were deeply rooted in the economic upheaval of the times alongside the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements which were dedicated towards improving the lives of others for generations to come.
The Era of Economic Prosperity
Economic prosperity was mainly influenced by the surging need for consumer goods. With the creation of what came to be known as our modern-day suburbia, attention shifted towards supporting and sustaining the emergence of these large suburban communities across America. Construction for new schools, community centers, suburbs, and even roadways served as the backbone for what made economic expansion possible during this period.
In addition, with the growth of the family nucleus, Boomers ensured to stock their homes with the latest technological appliances at the time that served to uphold the vision of a traditional American family. From TV sets to refrigerators to stovetops, families managed to purchase these new innovations every few years.
Factories for a multitude of products were propping across many big cities in America. The steady, reliable labor demands ensured that thousands of Boomers would find success in the manufacturing industry for decades to come. Without the existence of these factories, not only would workers be unable to see increased wages, but the ever-increasing necessity for consumer goods would not have been possible. In the end, the financial success stories of Boomers inevitably transitioned to a lesser, yet significant degree to the generations that followed.
Activism Amidst The Civil Rights Era
Although Baby Boomers saw continued prosperity in regard to their financial status, a centuries-long issue had been brewing beneath the surface of American society for far too long. During the peak of the Baby Boomer generation, racial tensions were drawing the focus of the American families towards the ongoing spreading protests spearheaded by notable African American leaders such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. The clamor for equal rights, fair treatment, and an end to systemic racial policies came to be regarded as the Civil Rights Era.
With such a pressing issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds, sentiment amongst Boomers was that something needed to be done. In a rebuke to the ideals of their parents’ generation, Boomers (many of which were in college during this point in history) had adopted a mentality geared towards combating hate and fighting for the equality that they believed their peers deserved.
As a consequence of having broader access to more educational resources than previous generations, Boomers combated racial inequality through student activism. This fiery activism that persisted well into the height of the Cold War would eventually lead to the creation of a new generation of social and political leaders that would fight to end decades of segregationist policies. As a result of this period, Boomers came to be known for their fierce but persistent attitudes, attitudes that were not exclusive to the Civil Rights Movement.
Suburbia and The Ensuing Women’s Rights Movement
The growth of the suburbs – which was a direct effect of the economic prosperity of the time – bore witness to one of the biggest housing projects in history. Owning a house in suburbia became the dream of what to have for the traditional American family. As families settled into their new lifestyles in the suburbs, the expectation for women to leave their jobs and become obedient, stay-at-home wives and mothers became persistent.
In a rejection of these confining societal expectations, women began demonstrating gradual yet significant activism that would become the women’s movement of the 1960s. Together with the Civil Rights activists, women of all colors and from across the socioeconomic spectrum began advocating for reforms on a multitude of issues.
The Women’s Rights movement raised awareness on important topics like:
- Reproductive Rights
- Equal Pay
- Sexual Assault/Awareness
- Domestic Violence
- Workplace Harassment
By bringing light to some of these issues, young Boomers throughout this era saw success in the passing of several policies that proved beneficial for the women’s rights movement. Important events that occurred and would subsequently pave success for future generations included the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Roe Vs. Wade, Title IX, Title X, and even the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, among others.
The Characteristics of The Baby Boomer Generation
The Boomer Boomer generation throughout the decades has changed society and our very way of life, for better or worse. In recent years, Boomers have garnered a rather negative reputation amongst millennials and younger generations. However, despite this, Baby Boomers have had a long-lasting effect on several aspects of our society that subsequently defined these generations’ defining traits and qualities.
Most notably, Boomers are recognized for their strong worth ethic, discipline, and competitive nature, which allowed them to make economic progress in almost every avenue of our society. These values are what define Boomers in regard to their grasp of media and technology, as well as predominant fiscal and socially conservative values.
Media and Technology
When it comes to technology, there is a misconception about Boomers and their supposed inability to adapt to current technological innovations. Remember that Baby Boomers were responsible for some of the biggest technological breakthroughs of their era from the development of the computer to many country’s space programs and more.
It is easy to misconstrue Boomers’ seeming inability to adapt to our ever-evolving personal electronic devices as technological illiteracy, but that is far from the case. In recent years, social media consumption has grown amongst Boomers alongside increased usage of tablets and personal computers. Even though these levels of usage are far from those of Gen X or Millenials, we can’t ignore the technological savviness that Boomers have continued to develop.
Fiscal and Financial Literacy
During the period where economic prosperity was so prevalent, Boomers managed to reap the benefits of both short and long-term financial stability. Low costs, low-interest rates, and increased wages defined the beginning of the Baby Boomer generation and was made possible because of the GI Bill in the mid-1940s.
All of these factors paved the way for Boomers to afford a college education alongside being able to obtain a home relatively quickly. For Baby Boomers, financial literacy was quite common, which inevitably led them to adopt a fiscally conservative attitude at the time. This was only further heightened by the imposition of neoliberalism from to the Reagan and Thatcher administrations in the US and UK, respectively.
Boomers and Conservative Stances
Although many boomers were staunch advocates for social and cultural reform during the 1960s and 1970s, there was still a portion of this demographic that upheld conservative viewpoints and values. During the Civil Rights and women’s movement, certain Boomers were strongly in favor of maintaining the traditions of their parents that centered around “traditional family values”. What did this mean, exactly? Well, it meant that a subset of the Baby Boomer generation viewed religion as a very important aspect of their lives. This view of religion aligned well with their belief in maintaining the patriarchal order.
Furthermore, these beliefs would go head-to-head with the reform attempts of the Women’s and Civil Rights movement that called for change within society by promoting equality for both women and minorities. One of the central issues for conservatives at the time unfolded with the passing of Roe Vs. Wade, which granted women the right to abortion. In effect, this led to these religious, conservative groups opposing such issues for the next several generations.