It was May 1946, nine months after Japan's surrender of World War II when the "cry of the baby was heard across the land". Troops were returning home, getting married, and having children, causing a dramatic population boom lasting from 1946 to 1964. A total of 76 million children were to be born, the highest number of newborns for any generation. This generation of babies came to be known as the baby boomers whom which led to an unstable revolution of social legislation but also a wave that in turn remolded American culture. The baby boomer was to become the most influential demographic to hit the United States, a generation of enthusiasm, intellect, and talent.
During the mid 1920's, adults began to hold off on child birth and marriage because of the Great Depression and World War II. No one wanted to risk starting a family in such a bad economy. Childbirth fell to its lowest during this time, 2.37 million#. It wasn't until after WWII that Americans began believing its economy future would be one of prosperity and optimism and in many ways they were right. Big businesses became larger and wealthier, employment rose, labor unions rose and promised safer working conditions and generous wages, and consumer goods were more affordable and safer#.Americans felt that it was now more plausible to have children and raise them successfully in a stable economy. As troops began coming home they quickly began to marry. Over 2.3 million couples got married in 1946, six hundred thousand more marriages than any previous years#. With these marriages came rapid childbirth which is how the baby boomers came about. In 1945, 2.8 million children were born, an average birth rate during the 20th century. But in 1946, 3.5 million children were born, an increase of 25% from its previous year#. This is a huge number, given only the time span of one year. This was not the peak though. In 1957, 11 years later, 4.08 million children were born.This number tops the chart even till today but what is amazing is how quickly numbers rose over one decade. With this dramatic increase in population also came a shift in land usage, culture, government and legislation, and family life.
The growing families of the 20th century needed affordable houses in which they could live. This led to the massive population shift of living in cities to moving into the suburbs. The suburbs is the area that surrounds cities. Suburban homes were built to be very cheap and to promote social activity. In 1970, the majority of the U.S. population lived in the suburbs, standing at 37%#. With the building of suburban homes came the building of public facilities and businesses such as public schools, restaurants, public park, churches, community centers, and other standard facilities. With the creation of these buildings came employment, especially in public health and education. There were not enough men alone during the time to accommodate all of theses jobs, so women began to enter the workforce. Though there were already a fair amount of women working, the biasedness women faced in the workforce was extreme. In 1940, national minimum wage was $.40 an hour but females only made $.25 an hour on average. This sexual discrimination began to even out as more women entered the workforce. Finally in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress. It prohibits any discrimination, based on sex, race, or religion. Now, by law women receive the equal opportunities to be hired as men do and receive the same wages and salaries as men.
Many law and legislation changes were made to take care of the large number of children born during the baby boom generation, including WIC, No Child Left Behind, The Great Society, and the New Frontier. WIC is Womens, Infants, and Children, a "government program to ensure proper nutrition for poor mothers and their children"#. As more children began entering schools, high school no longer became an option but a necessity leading to the No Child Left Behind Program and other programs that targeted schools. The purpose of these programs were to ensure a safe environment for students, fund public schools to create a more suitable learning environment, provide proper supplies, and to promote children to go to high school and to college. Many of these programs are still active today and have lead to the creation of many other education programs. These programs and schools raised a very conservative generation.
The baby boomers was a generation of split decisions. While half were in school or at work taking on their daily lives, the other half were in the streets, boycotting. While half were supporting the Vietnam war both actively and silently, the hawks, half were continuously boycotting the war, the doves. They came to be known as the counterculture generation. In 1965, U.S. troops were deployed to Vietnam to aid South Vietnam in the war. The process in which troops were drawn to enter the war is what many of the baby boomers fought though: drafting. Drafting was the process in which all males over the age of 18 had to register with their local draft boards. Citizens felt that the process was one that intruded on their freedoms and so they led large movements to fight the draft. They also began to support conservative politicians like George Wallace in 1968.
Baby boomers also fought for economic, political, and social equality for disadvantaged groups including African-Americans, American-Indians, Hispanics, women, and gays. For example, students took over college campuses, got involved in the Freedom Summer; a project in which students recruited civil rights groups to fight against racial discrimination and promote minority voter registration, and heavily involved themselves in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Baby boomers were raised into a society of conformity but quickly demolished the biased morale stilts that America stood on and rebuilt her on morales equality, freedom, peace, and love. The problem with the baby boomers is that they all aged together, and they are making their presence known in the economic trouble of Social Security.
65 years old, the age of "conventional wisdom", is when most American citizens begin to or consider retiring and begin to reap the benefits of programs such as Social Security. The problem that the American economy faces today is that the baby boomers will all be turning 65 at the same time. This means that the ratio of working citizens to retired citizens will be thrown off, leading to having major effects. In the workforce there are the working class, children, and the retired. When the baby boomers were born they were only children, therefore in 1946 every 100 workers supported 262 people #(children and retirees), causing a huge stress on the economy#. Tax income rose sharply. Now that the baby boomers are adults and are working, the load has lessened. Every 100 workers now supports 187 people#. Soon, the early baby boomers will grow from tax paying workers to tax gobbling retirees, throwing off the consumer to worker ratio once again. By 2030, when 65% of the boomers will be aged 65 or older, the support burden is expected to rise to 221 consumers for every 100 workers, and numbers will continue to rise as baby boomers continue to age and take the retirement path. This will lead to a large rise in income tax and Social Security Taxes. By 2030, Social Security taxes are expected to rise a total of 33%#. This will lead to one of two things, a drastically failing economy, or an attempt to prevent a poverty rise by raising wages at least by 26%#, a proposal that no one is willing to make. Another problem is the Boomer's Bargain, according to Thomas Firey.
When the baby boomers first began working in the 1970's, they only paid 6.5% of their earnings to Social Security. For more than half of their working years, they paid less than 10% on Social Security and less than 1.25% on Medicare#. Now today, we all pay 12.4% on Social Security and 2.9% on Medicare#, the value they just started paying but Americans of the 21st century have been paying all of their lives. The bargain is boomers got off paying a low percentage of their earning. They will receive more benefits than we will in the future but we will pick up their tab. If we are unable to pick up the tab in the future, the economy will fail and Social Security and Medicare will not be able to keep its promises and agreements made.
Boomers are a very powerful group of people. They started an age of reform, an age of silent revolution. Because of boomers, women are now able to define themselves no long as second class citizens, but as lead figures in the workforce and in politics. They remade the public education into something more suitable and aspiring, and spurred one of the largest population shifts the United States has ever seen. They also led some of the most important and substantial movements and boycotts of the nation to support freedom and equality of race, sexuality, and ideology. All of these things, one massive generation has achieved in mere decades and they continue to influence the nation in decisions of health care and Social Security. Their future will be one of optimism and alleviation, or one of gloom and despair, and their destiny will affect the nation as a whole. They are the baby boomers, the most influential demographic to hit the United States.