Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Baby Boomers are NOT all Alike: Part I

I was born in 1957 so that means I’m a baby boomer. But what does being a baby boomer really mean? By all accounts, we are the children of the Post World War II era, which began in 1946.

In May, 1951, Sylvia F. Porter, a columnist for the New York Post, used the term "Boom" to refer to the phenomenon of increased births in post war America. She said "Take the 3,548,000 babies born in 1950. Bundle them into a batch, bounce them all over the bountiful land that is America. What do you get? Boom. The biggest, boomiest boom ever known in history." That boom she referred to continued until 1964.

Much attention is being paid to baby boomers these days as the first wave of us moves towards retirement and social security. Yes, we were the first generation to grow up with television; many of us lived through the civil rights era and the Vietnam War. But the “real” image of a baby boomer is now in question. We are not all white kids who grew up in the suburbs watching the Mickey Mouse Club. We have been referred to as the most diverse generation but the fact of the matter is some of us actually grew up in a separate and unequal society. According to a study conducted by two Duke University sociologists, diversity has not led to equality: Baby boomers are the first generation to come of age after the Civil Rights era, however, the study revealed differences of income according to race, ethnicity and country of birth so entrenched that, in effect, there are ethnic classes. Blacks in the boomer generation, for example, are no better off relative to whites than their parents and grandparents. Many older southern baby boomers can still tell you stories about the Jim Crow laws and the impact it had on their lives. And educational levels also are unequal across the baby boom generation, which is often described as the best-educated generation in history.

We have also been called the wealthiest generation but despite what some would have you believe, we are not all living in the land of milk and honey. Some of us may have plenty of disposable income but, according to the Duke Study, quite a few of us are struggling financially. Late boomers have the highest levels of poverty since the generation born before World War I. One in 10 late boomers lives in poverty at middle age. "What surprised us the most was how racial inequality persists among the boomers compared to other generations," co-author Angela M. O’Rand said. "The figures are quite dramatic regarding the continuing relative disadvantage of African Americans."

There's a saying: The more things change---the more they remain the same. So it should come as no surprise that many African-Americans don’t identify themselves as baby boomers. It's time to take the blinders off.


Carine said...

I think, no matter what, we all do not want to see ourselves aging Bev. While hacking away and worrying (I think there's a connection to this illness and the stress around here lately)my co-worker (who is a mere 3 months younger than me)found ourselves shocked when we said, out loud, "I feel so bad for young people today". First we looked at each other, we laughed and then we shook our heads! We sounded like our parents! I think we all need to wake up and realize what stage in life we're at and adjust our "tudes", as my 23 year-old would say!

marthrock said...

Although some might be hurting, the trillion dollars that boomers are poised to spend annually tell a different stroy. Though, I could not agree more with your post. It's as usual a neglected part of our society.

BeverlyM said...

Thanks for your comments. I figure someone needs to speak up and address the other side of being a baby boomer.

It wasn't that long ago that we heard stories of little old ladies eating dog and cat food because they didn't have enough to live on from social security. Do you think all of those people have died off?

Rhea said...

This a great explanation of the boomer phenomenon.