The Boomer-Plus Generation: aged 50 and over and born 1940 or later
The original Baby Boom definition was purely demographic: Americans born 1946 through 1964 – a handy age bracket established by the US Census Bureau with which to assess the future economic impact of high post-WW2 birth rates.
The Bureau does not use the word generation to describe this group, but refers to the Baby Boom cohort instead. However, over time, marketers and journalists expanded the cohort definition into a social generation – a very different concept.
It’s not just an academic point.
The old date-stamp definition dramatically understates the true size of the social Boomer generation, because the US birth rate boom began, not in 1946, but in 1940 when the Great Depression era decline finally turned around, jumping by 5% versus 1939.
By 1942 the annual growth in the birth rate soared to an unprecedented 10% before WW2 briefly interrupted the boom.
Our new definition, The Boomer-Plus Generation™ includes those born 1940-1945. These Americans grew up in the same dynamic culture as their slightly younger siblings – one shaped by television, prosperity, technological progress and optimism.
As of 2016, the Boomer-Plus Generation has 88 million members, 13 million born 1940-1945 and 75 million born 1946-1964.
Boomer-Plus resolves a paradox: many seminal Boomer-culture icons were born 1940-1945, including:
- Aretha Franklin … The Beach Boys … Bob Dylan … Chevy Chase … Diana Ross … Gladys Knight … Janis Joplin … Jimi Hendrix
- Jim “The Doors” Morrison … Jerry “Grateful Dead” Garcia … Simon and Garfunkel … The Beatles … The Monkees
Traditionalists shove these greats into the so-called Silent Generation (beginning ≈1922/1925). Sure, right, Jimi Hendrix, silent – just another laid back big band crooner.
Boomer-Plus Generation: shared strands of social DNA
Obviously, Boomer-world is not a one size fits all community. But despite our differences, we share vital strands of social DNA – attitudes, expectations and experiences which not only bind Boomers together but spilled over to shape Generation X (1965-1981) in it’s turn.
- Adaptability/reinvention … Embracing change, confident there is always “a great big beautiful tomorrow” thanks to technology (HT Disneyland’s 1967 Carousel of Progress)
- Fear of war at home … Until 1991, when Iron Curtain bloc unraveled after the fall of the Berlin Wall, America lived under the threat of nuclear attack.
- The golden era of television … Boomers, GenX and TV grew up together.
- The Peter Pan syndrome … A new concept – the teenager – arrived in the 1950s, just in time to provide a platform for a lifelong preoccupation with youthfulness.
In time, the Boomers and, since 2015, Gen Xers came to share another bonding strand of DNA: Backlash after age fifty …
- Backlash after age 50 … After leaving the 18-49 demographic, Americans become uncool and invisible to many mainstream brands. Group-think marketers believe attitudes, brand loyalties and buying decisions are now no longer adaptable, so why “waste” advertising dollars by targeting us?
So let’s refine the Boomer-Plus social generation definition to: born 1940 or later and aged fifty or older. Which means by the end of 2016 some 8.5 million Gen Xers born in 1965-66 will have crossed through the 50th birthday portal and into the Boomer-Plus Generation.
And there is good reason for the Boomers to welcome older Gen Xers – 15% of them already self-identify as such (Pew).
Bottom line: there are now 96 million American consumers born 1940-1966. If we were a country, it would be the 15th most populous on the planet – a bigger market than any European country – and the world’s third largest economy after the U.S. itself and China.
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