Technically the Baby Boom ran from 1946-1964. In America in 1940 (a year before America entered the war) there were 2,559,000 births. In 1946 there were 3,311,000 births. It peaked in 1957 at 4,300,000 births. At the tail
end, in 1964, there were 4,027,000 births. By 1974 births had fallen to 3,160,000. Curiously, despite a growing population, births in America would not even reach 1964’s end-of-boom benchmark
of 4 million until 1989.
The great surge in births is two fold. A big jump in births after the war is generally attributed to the fact most couples put off having children during the war years. The immediate post-war economy slipped into recession
-- a time typically not conducive to family planning -- however there was greater optimism about economic future. Couple that with the end of rationing
and the knowledge you could start buying luxuries like baby shoes
led couples to make the choice that the time was ripe to finally start the family. By the ‘50s, however, the US economy was firing on all cylinders
. Actual domestic prosperity encouraged people to have substantial families.
The official baby boom encompasses some 76 million Americans. However, as a cultural phenomenon -- that is people who identify themselves as part of the Baby Boom generation or “Baby Boomer
s” -– the numbers are a bit different. People born between 1940 and 1959 tend to immediately identify themselves as Baby Boomers, even if they were born before 1946. A number of the Baby Boom Generation’s cultural icon
s, such as Joan Baez
, Bob Dylan
, Jerry Garcia
, and Jimi Hendrix
, were all born before 1946, definite pre-Boomers according to a strict definition.
People born in the early ‘60s, and still technically “boomers”, tend to identify themselves with the so-called Generation X
crowd. Douglas Coupland
, inventor of the Gen X label, himself moves the end of the cultural baby boom back a few years. He identifies the Gen X generation as “the generation born in the late ‘50s and ‘60s”.