The Baby Boomer generation has profoundly shaped the fabric of modern society, from cultural shifts to economic impacts. Coming of age in a period of prosperity, global tension, and revolutionary change, they've been pivotal actors in significant historical moments. This exploration will delve into the key facets of this influential generation, including their demographics, personal values, media preferences, and key traits, underscoring their ongoing societal impact.
/// Who Are Baby Boomers?
"Baby Boomer" refers to the generation born during the era following the World War II, a period of increased birth rates observed in several countries, including the United States. The optimism and economic prosperity of the time led to a demographic explosion known as the "baby boom”.
Baby Boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964, as defined by the Pew Research Center. This nearly two-decade span was marked by a substantial increase in population, making Baby Boomers one of the largest generational cohorts in history. The impact of this generation has been felt in every aspect of society, from economics to culture.
Baby Boomers are now in their retirement years. Their transition into this phase of life has significant implications for various sectors such as healthcare, retirement planning, and even consumer behavior, as businesses and policymakers adapt to cater to their needs and preferences.
/// Significant Cultural Events
This generation experienced significant economic growth, social change, and various cultural and political events, which shaped their lives and the world around them. They came of age during the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the Space Race, among other events.
Growing up with television as a new medium, Baby Boomers had a unique collective cultural experience, relative to the generations before them. This generation had the unprecedented opportunity to witness history as it happened. Millions followed on their screens as the tense 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded in 1962. The shocking news of J.F.K.'s assassination in 1963 reached them almost instantly. And the awe-inspiring moment when man first stepped on the moon in 1969 was shared in living rooms across the nation. This real-time exposure to significant events shaped their worldview in a way no previous generation had experienced.
Baby Boomers comprise 20.6% of the U.S. population. As of 2022, they range in age from 58 to 76 years old, with a mean age of 66. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be at least 65 years old.
This generation is slightly more female, with women making up slightly over half of the population. In terms of race and ethnicity, Baby Boomers are predominantly white, accounting for nearly three quarters of the demographic, and more than 4 out of 5 were born in the U.S.
Educationally, nearly a third of Baby Boomers hold a college degree or higher, a figure slightly lower than that of Gen-Xers and Millennials. Financially, Baby Boomers have a median wealth of nearly $241K, second only to the Silent Generation. Their combined net worth as of Q4 2022 was $73.1 trillion, representing more than half of all wealth in the U.S. Homeownership is high among Baby Boomers, with 4 out of 5 owning their homes.
In terms of employment, as of 2022, nearly half of U.S. adults aged 55-74 were employed, while the remaining half were not in the labor force. Interestingly, Baby Boomer workforce engagement was higher than that of the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation when they were the same age. However, only about a quarter of Baby Boomers are "very" confident they will be able to retire with a comfortable lifestyle, and about half expect to work past age 70 or do not plan to retire. In terms of family life, nearly two thirds of Baby Boomers are married, and more than 3 out of 4 have no children in the household.
/// Personal values
Baby Boomers share conservative values. They value self-discipline and adherence to obligations, rules, and laws, emphasize the stability of society and social order, and emphasize the preservation of traditions and customs within family, culture, and religion.
Baby Boomers are also religious and optimistic, value conscious, and enjoy hobbies like gardening and reading.
/// Media preferences
Significant portions of Baby Boomers consume Television, Internet, and Social Media. Although they consume social media at lower levels than the average U.S. adult, 63% of Baby Boomers use social media, with the vast majority on Facebook. They utilize social media to engage with content and discuss political issues but are concerned about how their data is stored and used.
On the Internet, Baby Boomers prefer news-related websites, videos, and apps. Although they admit to often being confused by technology, they are smartphone and tablet users.
Although Baby Boomers engage with social media and the internet, Television is still their preferred medium. Baby Boomers enjoy classic networks like Turner Classic Movies, MeTV, and TV Land; and prefer genres like News, Soap Operas, and Talk Shows.
On Radio, Baby Boomers primarily listen to Oldies and Classic Rock and News Talk on AM and FM radio. Baby Boomers do not listen to a lot of Podcast programming, but when they do, they are likely to reflect their interest on other channels and listen to News and Politics.
In addition, Baby Boomers do consume print media at higher rates than the average U.S. adult, reading local Newspapers and Magazines like AARP, Woman’s Day, and AAA Living.
/// Key Traits
The defining characteristics of Baby Boomers extend to a range of key traits. These traits, encompassing brand loyalty, shopping preferences, technology use, political and social perspectives, health and wellness, and religious beliefs, offer a holistic understanding of this influential generation.
The following section delves into these traits, providing a detailed exploration of their behaviors and attitudes.
Brand Loyalty: Baby Boomers shop for their groceries at supermarkets like Publix and Safeway, and frequent home improvement stores like Ace Hardware and Lowe’s Home Improvement.
In terms of apparel, Baby Boomers prefer brands that are known for high-quality products, comfort, classic styles, broad appeal, and affordability. Preferred apparel brands include L.L. Bean, Skechers, New Balance, Hanes, Levi Strauss, and Dockers.
Shopping Preferences: Similarly, Baby Boomers value product selection, price, and convenience. Although they do some online shopping, they prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores that offer competitive prices, have knowledgeable sales personnel, and provide good customer service.
Unlike younger demographics, they also prefer to be messaged via Direct Mail and magazine or newspaper ads.
Technology: Baby Boomers own smartphones and utilize social media at lower rates than their Gen X or Millennial counterparts. This is the result of a fraught relationship with technology, with nearly half of Baby Boomers stating that they are confused by tech products, with two thirds reporting they feel anxious about technology that isn’t working.
They value simplicity, dependability, and quality in their technology, but only purchase tech its needed. When they do purchase tech, they look for products that are easy to use, save time, and are a good value.
Political and Social Issues: Although Baby Boomers are politically split, they lean conservative on many social issues. In terms of immigration, Baby Boomers are less likely to agree that immigrants strengthen the country and more likely to want to expand the wall along the U.S./Mexico border than Gen Xers or Millennials.
Baby Boomers are also less likely to acknowledge global warming, favor gay marriage, and agree that racial discrimination remains a significant issue for African Americans.
Health and Wellness: Although Baby Boomers are living longer than their predecessors, they are more likely to face higher rates of chronic diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.
Although some of this is driven by worsening habits like increased drinking of alcohol and a lack of physical activity relative to the previous generation, Baby Boomers who are also caregivers are also more likely to suffer from more chronic health conditions and frequent mental distress.
Faith and Religion: Baby Boomers are more likely to have an absolute certain belief in God and believe that religion is very important part of life, as compared to Gen Xers and Millennials. They are also more likely to equate morality with a belief in God, attend religious services at least a few times a year, and pray on a daily basis.
The Baby Boomer generation, with its unique experiences and values, continues to shape society in profound ways. Their influence spans across various sectors, from economics to culture, and their preferences and behaviors continue to impact consumer trends, political landscapes, and societal norms. As they transition into their retirement years, their needs and preferences will continue to drive changes in healthcare, retirement planning, and consumer behavior.
Their conservative values, religious beliefs, and media preferences reflect their unique experiences and the era they grew up in. Despite their lower engagement with technology compared to younger generations, they have adapted to the digital age in their own way, balancing their use of traditional media with newer forms of communication.
Understanding the Baby Boomer generation requires a comprehensive exploration of their experiences, values, and behaviors. As one of the largest generational cohorts in history, their far-reaching impact continues to resonate across all aspects of society. As they navigate their later years, their evolving needs and preferences will undoubtedly continue to shape the world around them.