Baby Boomer

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The Boom Generation (born 1943–60) grew up as indulged youth during the post-World War II era of community-spirited progress. Parents, educators, and leaders were determined to raise young people who would never follow a Hitler, Stalin, or Orwellian Big Brother. As kids, Boomers were the proud creation of postwar optimism, Dr. Spock rationalism, and Father Knows Best family order. Coming of age, they loudly proclaimed their contempt for the secular blueprints of their parents. They scorned institutions, civic participation, and team-playing while pushing towards inner-life, self-perfection, and personal meaning. There was quite a bit of screaming—on the streets, in dorms, and in families. Crime rates, substance abuse, and sexual risk-taking all surged, while academic achievement and SAT scores started to fall. The Consciousness Revolution climaxed with Vietnam War protests, the “summer of love,” the Chicago Democratic Convention, Woodstock, and Kent State.

In the 1970s, Boomer women began challenging the “glass ceiling” in the workplace. Both genders designated themselves the arbiters of the nation’s values, crowding into such “culture” careers as teaching, religion, journalism, law, marketing, and the arts. During the 1980s, they were the “yuppie” individualists in an era of deregulation, tax cuts, and entrepreneurial business. Ever since they came to power in the 1990s, Boomer political leaders have trumpeted a “culture war,” touted a divisive “politics of meaning,” and waged scorched-earth political battles. Their two Presidents (Clinton and Bush) each attracted powerful enmities among their peers. As family heads, Boomers have developed very close individual relationships with their children, to the point of hovering. From first-to-last cohort, they have been a generation of declining economic prosperity, on average, and of rising spread of economic outcomes, from rich to poor. Millions of Boomers are now being forced to put their retirement on hold in an “age of austerity” that none of them ever prepared for.