Baby BoomExplosive population increase that occurred between 1946 and 1964.
After World War II, the United States experienced an abnormal number of births per year. In 1940, records indicate that about 2.6 million Americans were born. As servicemen and servicewomen returned home after World War II, married, and had more children, traditional living arrangements changed. Previously, young married couples had lived with their parents, but the availability of affordable housing in the suburbs created a demographic shift. By 1946, the number of births had increased to 3.4 million, and it peaked in 1957 with 4.3 million births. In 1964 the number of children born remained high (4 million); the following year, the figure dropped to 3.7 million, signaling the end of the baby boom generation.
This population expansion produced numerous economic consequences. As the baby boom generation entered the workplace, their wages generated more wealth in the United States, and the deduction of their Social Security tax ensured the continuation of the program for elderly Americans. In 1964, the baby boomers made up 40 percent of the population. Such a large concentration of young people altered American culture and society in ways ranging from rock and roll music to increased use of the automobile. Because there were more consumers and more disposable income, marketing techniques also changed to create a need for more consumer goods, which in turn fueled the economy.
Between 1940 and 1994, 202 million Americans were born, about 28 percent of the population as of the year 2002. Another major economic impact of this generation will most likely be felt as these workers retire. Because Congress has continuously (since the 1960s) borrowed money from the Social Security fund, payout of future benefits will place an added burden on the federal budget over the next several decades. Consequently, younger Americans will be forced to pay higher taxes, which will reduce their disposable income and reduce consumer spending.
—Cynthia Clark Northrup
Smith, Olivia J., ed. Aging in America. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2000.
See also: Levittown; World War II.