Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
Baby boomers are the generational cohort born after World War II. Also known simply as “boomers,” they are named after the unprecedented post-war spike in birth rates, referred to as the baby boom. Until 2019 when they were dethroned by millennials, baby boomers were the largest generational cohort in the U.S., peaking at 78.8 million in 1999.
The post-war baby boom, occurring between 1946 and 1964, determines who is a baby boomer. This means that, as of 2020, baby boomers are between 56 and 74 years old. While the birth span for other generational cohorts is estimated and can vary from source to source, baby boomers are unique in that their cohort is visibly measurable through census data, which shows an above-average, sustained rise in birth rates starting in mid-1946 and ending in mid-1964.
While baby boomers still lag behind younger generations in technology adoption, a large majority of boomers use the internet (85 percent), and their use of Facebook has increased by double digits over the last last decade. Along with the silent generation (1928-1945), baby boomers tend to be more politically conservative and have grown more conservative over time, as reported by the Pew Research Center. Baby boomers surpassed previous generations in educational attainment, but unlike younger generations, men still outnumbered women in college completion rates. This generation did mark a surge for women in the workforce, up 26 percent for women aged 22 to 37 compared to the silent generation.
Across every age category, people expect to have to retire later than previous generations did, but this expectation is hitting baby boomers at a critical time in their employment––when they otherwise would be retiring. A 2016 survey found that 45 percent of baby boomers expected to retire at age 66 or older, up 30 percent since 1996. This correlates with the fact that more baby boomers are staying longer in the workforce compared to previous generations: 53 percent of baby boomers were still in the workforce in 2018. At the same age, only 44 percent of the silent generation still participated.
In other words, employers have to keep baby boomers in mind when they create workplace policies and make personnel decisions. Older workers will have different priorities than their younger counterparts. Rather than seeking to establish a career or make major purchases, like a house, baby boomers will be planning for income that continues after retirement. With benefits, for example, younger generations may worry more about parental leave while baby boomers may be more interested in 401(k) and health insurance plans.