Who are the Baby Boomers?
The easiest description of the Baby Boomer generation is that it comprises people who were born in the United States between 1946 and 1964. However, they are often broken down into two distinct groups: Those born between 1946 and 1954 (often called Leading-edge Boomers), and those born between 1955 and 1964 (often called Shadow Boomers, or Generation Jones).
The single, defining historical event of the Baby Boomer Generation was the Vietnam War. Since Shadow Boomers born after 1955 were not eligible for the draft, they had a much different experience than the Leading-edge Boomers, creating a generation gap in the middle of a single generation.
In 1985, Howard Schuman and Jacqueline Scott asked people "What world events over the past 50 years were especially important to you?" The answers for the two groups of Boomers were very different. Leading-edge Boomers mentioned the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King; man walking on the moon; the Vietnam War; sexual freedom; the civil rights movement; and protests and riots. The Shadow Boomers, on the other hand, mentioned Watergate, Nixon's resignation, the Cold War, the oil embargo, massive inflation and gasoline shortages.
All differences aside, there is one thing that culturally unites the Boomers like no other: television. The Baby Boomers were the first generation raised on TV. They could share cultural events and milestones with everyone in their age group, no matter where they were geographically. They all watched “Bonanza” or “Leave it to Beaver,” and saw the Vietnam War in their living rooms while they were coming of age. These shared moments helped craft a generational bond like no generation before them.
Another cultural element that separated Boomers from their parents was Rock and Roll. Artists like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and later Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who took over the airwaves and gave the Boomers a generational identity.
That identity is, in many ways, deeply skeptical. Boomers in their 20s coined the famous phrase "Don’t trust anyone over 30" at the height of the Vietnam War. The events of Nixon and Watergate cemented the skepticism of authority. Instead, Baby Boomers put their trust in themselves. They have been called the "Me Generation" because they were the first generation to take a breather between childhood and adulthood and explore being young. They got married later, had kids later and spent lavishly on themselves.
Conversely, they are also one of the most active and selfless generations ever. Their continual fight against injustice created the women's movement, the civil rights movement, Vietnam War protests and much more.