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Boomer Statistics

Boomers today represent 28% of the U.S. population. But in 1964, they represented about 40% of the population. In other words, in 1964 more than a third of the population was under 19 years old! No wonder the baby boomers attracted so much attention.

The Boomer Stats

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The United States experienced an “explosion” of births after American soldiers returned home from World War II. The sociologists define those born between (and including) 1946 and 1964 as “baby boomers.” To be fair, some people born on the fringes of this time period do not think of themselves as boomers. When we think of the baby boomer generation, we often think of the 60s. That is the decade that seems to have defined the boomers. Many of those born after 1960 have little memory of the greatest decade of the century.

The Birth of the Boomers
So you may argue the fine points a bit, but there is no doubt that there was indeed a population explosion in the years after the war. The following chart shows the number of U.S. births from 1940 to 1994 in thousands. For example, in 1940, there were 2,559 thousand (or 2,559,000 - that’s 2.6 million) births. This data comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. These numbers refer to U.S. births only.

1940 2,559 1955 4,097 1970 3,731 1985 3,761
1941 2,703 1956 4,218 1971 3,556 1986 3,757
1942 2,989 1957 4,300 1972 3,258 1987 3,809
1943 3,104 1958 4,255 1973 3,137 1988 3,910
1944 2,939 1959 4,245 1974 3,160 1989 4,041
1945 2,858 1960 4,258 1975 3,144 1990 4,158
1946 3,411 1961 4,268 1976 3,168 1991 4,111
1947 3,817 1962 4,167 1977 3,327 1992 4,065
1948 3,637 1963 4,098 1978 3,333 1993 4,000
1949 3,649 1964 4,027 1979 3,494 1994 3,979
1950 3,632 1965 3,760 1980 3,612    
1951 3,823 1966 3,606 1981 3,629    
1952 3,913 1967 3,521 1982 3,681    
1953 3,965 1968 3,502 1983 3,639    
1954 4,078 1969 3,606 1984 3,669    

One can easily see a “boom” in 1946, when births went from 2.8 to 3.4 million. The end of the boom is not as clear, however. Perhaps that delineation was marked when annual births dropped below 4 million (1964).


“Every 7 Seconds”

I believe it was Bill Geist who noted first (in 1997) in his book “The Big 5-Oh” that another boomer turns 50 every 7 seconds. Whew! Is that possible? Well, you don’t have to be a math major to check it out. Let’s look at 50 years ago - 1960 - when 4,258,000 boomers were born. Now, I suppose that some of them have not made it this far, so let’s round it down to 4,000,000. (That’s just my estimate, but it is close enough for my purposes here.) So, nearly 4,000,000 will turn 50 in 2014. Let’s see how that breaks down:

per year: 4,000,000
per day (4.0 mil / 365):     10,958
per hour (10.6 k / 24): 456
per minute (456 / 60): 7.1

And 7.1 per minute amounts to one every 8.5 seconds.

So, according to our statistics, Bill Geist is off by a bit. But, if you use 1957 as your base number, when 4,300,000 million boomers were born, he is exactly right. So maybe he was just ahead of his time. Nonetheless, his point is valid. That’s a heck of a number!

Summary:

For the years 1940-1994, inclusive, 202 million Americans were born; about 77% of all Americans now living were born after 1939. During the baby boomer years, 1946-1964 (inclusive), 75.8 million Americans were born. The ratio of males to females has stayed relatively constant. There were approximately 1.05 male births for every one female birth.

The biggest year of the boom was 1957, when 4.3 million boomers were born. Why it took over 10 years for so many post-World War II families to get going is a matter of speculation. For the 5-year period between 1956 and 1960, inclusive, 21.2 million boomers were born, nearly 1 1/2 times the number born between 1941 and 1945, and the largest for any 5-year period in the 20th century.

Boomers today represent 28% of the U.S. population. But in 1964, they represented about 40% of the population. In other words, in 1964 more than a third of the population was under 19 years old! No wonder the baby boomers attracted so much attention.




The Aging of the Boomers
Using the years 1946 through 1964 as boundaries, boomers are now (in 2014) between 50 and 68 years old.

As of 1996, when the boomers were between 32 and 50, the Census Bureau reported the age of Americans as follows. Again, the number for each age group is in thousands.

21-25 18,197 36-40 22,001 51-55 13,052 66-70 9,045
26-30 19,339 41-45 19,617 56-60 10,884 71-75 8,460
31-35 22,251 46-50 16,598 61-65 10,003 76-80 6,246


We are amused when visitors write to us ask what effect the boomers are having on the economy. Folks, in 2014, the economy is STILL the boomers! We still represent the vast majority of the work force. There are 76 million of us; we ARE the economy. (That is not bragging; that is just a statistical reality.) The huge growth in the economy since the 90s was due in no small part to 76 million of us working up to our peak earning and spending years. What are we spending our money on? Other than Lady Gaga CDs and movies aimed at 15 year-olds, whatever is being sold... we are buying it. (And, in fact, we are paying for many of those Lady Gaga CDs and movie tickets, as well.) What kind of cars are we buying? What kind are Detroit and Japan selling? We ARE the upper end of the automobile market. What explains the popularity of SUVs? We do. Where do we go on vacation? Everywhere. How do we get there? Every way possible.

Summary:

There were 76.1 million Americans between the ages of 32 and 50 in 1996. That represents about 28% of the U.S population. At the lower end of this range, the number of males is nearly the same as the number of females. But at age 50, there are 1.05 females for every male.

Another Boom On the Way?
You might think that the baby boom after WW II would lead to another boom 25-30 years later. While there has been a slow increase in the number of births since 1977, it is hardly a boom. The reason for this is that many boomers waited longer to have children. Thus, the next “boom” has been more spread out. Also, many boomers have not had children. So it appears as though the baby boom phenomenon will be a one-time event.

In 1996, there were approximately 10 million Americans over the age of 80. There also were 68 million under the age of 20. Doesn’t this constitute another boom? Not exactly. At the time, the “boom” of 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 represented a much larger percentage of the entire population than the 68 million under 20 do now. Nonetheless, in about a decade, 70 million boomers will begin counting on those “kids” to pay our social security. But that’s another set of statistics for another time.


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For a comparison of the Boomers, the Generation X’ers and today’s kids, see The Boomers, the Gen-X’ers & Beyond.



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