Baby boomers have only very recently been surpassed by millennials as America’s largest generation. As a result, there has been a shift in opinion on many fiscal and social issues — with millennials forming the majority of the popular opinion. Baby boomers, however, are still a large part of the population, and these different views on economic and social issues are creating tension between the our two largest generations. It may take a look at how the baby boomer generation was shaped to understand why they value the things they do, and what they are aspiring for in the future.
Boomers have lived through civil rights movements, the Vietnam and Cold Wars, musical and cultural movements that challenged existing traditional values, and more. These watershed moments spanning 1946-1964 defined where the baby boomer generation would place their social and fiscal values. Overall, it’s these historical milestones that helped to shape their cultural identity, and ultimately would influence what baby boomers want out of life and how they spend their money.
Baby Boomers & Work Ethic
Baby boomers were coming to age in a post-WWII era, when many were sick of destruction and conflict and were looking forward to returning to the pursuit of the “American Dream.” As such, boomers worked long and strenuous hours in pursuit of that dream, and would continue to do so into adulthood. They are often said to be workaholics who shaped the idea of the 50-hour work week. Furthermore, job title and achievements in work came to determine a baby boomers measure of success and identity in a lasting way. In fact, a boomer’s career may become so ingrained with their character and perception of themselves that it can make them reluctant to retire.
The baby boomer outlook on work life (and life in general) is held in contrast to those held by millennials. Often baby boomers disagree with what they might see as the millennials generation’s lack of work ethic. However, the economy was much more stable in the U.S. post-WWII, and the American Dream was much more attainable at the time. Their own positive experiences lead baby boomers to value working hard, climbing the corporate ladder to success, and staying loyal to and working for a company as long as they can. The stability of today’s job market and unstable economy makes millennials weary to do so, whether boomers recognize it or not.
Baby Boomers & Technology
Those growing up from 1946 – 1964 saw and experienced the results of technological progress, but nothing like those born in 1981-1996 did. Being born before cell phones and personal computers, baby boomers interacted more face-to-face with one another, and still value that mode of communication. They often see themselves as more conversationally skilled as a result. Overall, boomers believe that technology presents as many problems as they solve, and that technology is making millennials lazy.
However, millennials would beg to differ. A millennial was coming to age throughout the technological boom and find it very easy to lead digitally-enhanced lives. The younger generations utilize technology to create a better work-life balance, to stay up on entertainment and news, and to talk to people all over the globe.
Boomers are only recently coming around the idea of using technology for connectivity instead of just a means of productivity. In an era dominated by landlines and assembly line machinery, baby boomers are considered digital immigrants while millennials are digital natives. Technological differences may be yet another source of frustration between our two largest generations.
Baby Boomers & Family
The American Dream was exemplified by the traditional, “Leave it to Beaver” nuclear family. Baby boomers worked hard to provide for their family and pave the way for a better future for them. Traditionally-held views on gender roles meant that this responsibility fell predominantly upon the boomer generation’s men to support the family and leave behind a legacy, while the women stayed at home to look after the children and keep the house in order. Since then marital status, home ownership, and many other demographic differences have changed drastically.
Younger generations have strayed from the typical family structure due to the economy, progress in LGBTQ+ rights, and various other societal factors as well. Single parent families, extended families, same-sex parenting, and adults choosing not to have children are the more likely family structures established by current generations.
It should be noted that the baby boomer generation spans a significant period of time with many cultural milestones that influenced popular opinion. The younger baby boomers were not far disconnected from the previous silent generation, while the older boomers — influenced through music and writing — became more rebellious and challenged the status quo. However, the whole baby boomer generation paved the way for generation X, millennials, and gen Z individuals to either agree and uphold the same values, or to disagree and change where they place their moral codes.
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