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The more than 77 million members of the baby boom generation have experienced paradigm changes in the social structure and technology. Born between 1946 and 1964, the baby boom generation has experienced the stresses of the Cold War, the social unrest of the civil rights, women's and environmental movements, and the protests and activism of the Vietnam War era.
Identifying the baby boom generation probably should start with the definition of the U.S. Department of the Census. They classify a person as a baby boomer if they were born in the period from 1946 until 1964. Others have proposed slightly different time frames for the United States, and the period is different for other countries because the increase in births occurred sooner or later by a few years.
The baby boom was nicknamed by an author and journalist named Landon Jones. As a result, the later born half of the generation is often also called Generation Jones in his honor. A notable member of Generation Jones is the current President of the United State, Barack Obama, who was born in 1961. Likewise, a notable member of the earlier half of the generation was the last President, George W. Bush.
While the first of the baby boom generation was born into a time of peace and prosperity after the second World War, there was considerable turmoil ahead. War broke out in Korea in the early 1950's and some boomers lost a parent in that conflict. Throughout the 50's and into the 60's the Cold War raged and there was a considerable atmosphere of tension and fear of nuclear annihilation.
Social unrest was also part and parcel of the 50's and 60's. The civil rights movement sought voting and other rights for African-Americans and often resulted in violence. There were lynching and murders, violent demonstrations and assassinations such as that of Martin Luther King Jr. Even the many peaceful actions and demonstrations caused uneasiness because they demanded radical changes to the status quo.
Environmentalism and the movement for women's rights also caused some upheaval, although this was rarely violent. The advent of the Vietnam War and the military draft that accompanied it led to unprecedented anti-war activism and resistance. Public opinion about this war was largely shaped by seeing it daily on television, something that had never been possible before.
Through a time of lightning fast technological change, the baby boom generation managed to command considerable wealth and purchasing power. Over 77 million strong, the baby boom generation controls over half of the spending power in America. As this largest of American generations reaches retirement age, it remains to be seen what the financial changes of retirement will mean to the economy.