Karen Turner PHD | What is the Face of the American Boomer?
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What is the Face of the American Boomer?

What is the Face of the American Boomer?

What does the average American Baby boomer look like? We all know how old they are; they were all born between 1946 and 1964. But is she more likely to be a he? Where does he come from? What does she do for a living?

Much is made of the similarities among boomers – that they were the first generation to grow up with television, that many of them lived through the civil rights era and the Vietnam War. Finding out what historic events they share is as easy as opening a history book or searching on Google. But what distinguishes them from one another is not always apparent from their public image.

Researchers and advocates are trying to correct that, to combat generalizations that depict the 77 million-strong group as all retirees, or suburbanites, or free-loving W width=oodstock groupies. Understanding boomer diversity across age, ethnic, and economic lines is necessary to accurately assess the needs and actions of the members of the group.

The media often lump boomers into one big homogeneous category, the report notes, including suggesting that they all have similar upbringings, are well educated, affluent, or are married with children. Many researchers say that thinking of the boomers in too-general terms could produce retirement policies that affect some boomers adversely. Stereotypes also mask the reality about the group, whose diversity reflects that of society.

“The harm in over-generalizing comes from a policy standpoint,” says Mary Elizabeth Hughes, a professor at Duke University and coauthor of a recent analysis of boomer lives, including their diversity. “[Our report shows] the income inequality, or the wealth inequality in the boomers. And that suggests that some boomers are going to be very well off in retirement, and other boomers are going to be really struggling.”

An obvious example of diversity among the boomers is their age range, which spans 19 years and means that while some boomers are grandparents, others are still getting kids into preschool.

The differences are especially true for women. Just like any other generation, female baby boomers have had different experiences based on the choices we’ve made. So while there were plenty of women who climbed the corporate ladder, there were also many women who chose to stay at home.

Marketers are already honing their pitches to try to reach particular segments of the boomers – such as those in their late 40s and early 50s whose kids are leaving the nest. But some findings in the Duke report, which is based on census data from 2000 and earlier, suggest more fine-tuning across cultural lines may be needed. The baby boomers are more diverse than popularly recognized. Twelve percent of baby boomers are black, 9 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander and less than 1 percent are American Indian or native Alaskan. But the Duke Professors found that racial inequality persists for baby boomers, in terms of education and wealth. Incomes of blacks are higher than in earlier generations, and more of them have moved into the middle class, says Hughes, “but on the whole, black boomers really did not improve their condition, relative to whites, compared to the generation immediately preceding them.”

Perceptions from society still persist, however. One can find that on many baby boomer social sites boomers discuss whether people born in the early 1960s are really boomers if they don’t feel they fit in the generation. One can also find several comments from 20- and 30-somethings who suggest that the boomers are a mass of greedy people who are taking all the jobs.

There is no real homogeneity that exists within the boomer generation, except for the simple fact that they experienced the same changes and events, yes many of them historic, that were going on in their world. But just like those before them and those that came after, what they chose to do with those experiences is what makes them hugely diverse.

Boomeryearbook.com is a social networking site connecting the Baby Boomer generation. Share your thoughts, rediscover old friends, or expand your mind with brain games provided by clinical psychologist Dr. Karen Turner. Join today to discover the many ways we are helping Boomers connect for fun and profit.

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