I never really liked the classic definition of boomers as those born 1946 to 1964. Its overbroad, and well, wrong. That age cohort should really end in 1959.

I see why they Demographers made up that range — its so there is a seamless, artificial flow right into to the Gen X group, born 1965 to 1984.

Only its not. Yet another model succumbing to the hard reality of George Box.

Anyone born between 1960-65 are inbetweeners. They are not definitely not boomers, as they were born after all of the classic baby boomer experiences. They are cultural different. They also have spent most of their lives following the messes made by the Worst Generation, either paying for them or cleaning them up.

And this small group is too early for Gen X. (e.g., Think of anyone you know born in 1964 — they and their cohorts / peers are nothing like the boomers or the Gen Xers in either attitude or experience). Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe came closer to correctly identifying Boomers as the cohorts born from 1943 to 1960 (but even that is overbroad).

To correct this error, henceforth, I declare anyone born from 1960 to 1965 “Tweeners.” I hereby decree that you are not a post WW2 Baby-boomer — you were born 20 years after that group started.

Enjoy your AARP card — its coming in the mail.


Youngest Boomers Turn 50 This Year(?)

Source: WSJ

Category: Bad Math, Research

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

43 Responses to “The Graying of America (Or Bad Demography)”

  1. scottinnj says:

    Well as someone born in 1965 I’ve always been proudly adamant that I’m not a boomer and all that entails. I sometimes think of myself as ‘elder MTV generation” as my formative years in the late 1970′s/early 1980′s were the early days of MTV when, you know, they actually played music on MTV. I consider myself part of a special generation since no one that is much older or younger than I has Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby, or a-Ha on their iPod.

    OTOH it also meant that in the mid 1980′s when I was studying a semester abroad in the UK that I was able to go to 6 shows in small (<200 people) clubs across England to see this great band out of Athens GA called R.E.M. so there were some advantages of being that age at that time beyond leg warmers and Rick Springfield hair-do's.

    • CitizenWhy says:

      You’re on to something. It would be useful to categorize generations by musical preferences, although some of us (The Silents) like to play our parents music as well, all that Depression and WWII stuff.

  2. rd says:

    My wife and I are classic examples of the transition of which you speak. Both born in 1959. She was the last child in a family where her dad fought in WW II. I was the first child in a family where my parents were less than 10 years old at the end of WW II.

  3. ironman says:

    There’s another, more accurate name for those born in the years from 1960 and 1965, and it’s not flattering….

  4. davebarnes says:

    It is George E. P. Box.
    He has never been George Box.

  5. gman says:

    In 30 years workers may have a chance to demand wage increases and the labor glut may subside.

  6. Arequipa01 says:

    “That age cohort should really end in 1959.”

    Thank You! Finally! How long I have suffered listening to post 1960 nincompoops qualify themselves as boomers. You’re Jonesers, is what you are! Accept it and move on.

  7. donald twain says:

    So, Barry, do you consider yourself an in-betweener? I’ve been reading your blog for five years (GenXer here), and have always thought of you as a readily identifiable baby boomer. A late one, but a DVD box set-buying, Starbucks drinkin’, mall-shopping boomer.

    If you immediately recognize my handle without googling it, there *may* be something to the tweener theory. Cheers.

    • Totally — I do not relate to the boomers. Was always annoyed by/at them

      1) I hate the mall — never go. Literally never.
      2) I like any strong coffee: Starbux, Holy Grounds, Stumptown Roasters, 2 Beans, Third Rail, Blue Bottle etc.
      3) Not much of a DVD box set buyer — but I will admit to CDs.

  8. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    Great graphic on the senior migration. We will be joining that migration in a few years but it won’t be due to costs. It’s because of the desirable (warmer) weather/climate down South.

  9. orko says:

    As someone born in 1980, I’ve never felt like part of the Gen X group. I’ve never understood how I could be boxed into a group with those that were teenagers when Reagan took office. But I imagine late millennials look at me and think, how could they be in a group with someone that was a teenager when the internet became mainstream? I don’t even know how to explain to them that I only had dial-up in high school.

    • KevinM says:

      Born in early 70′s, and I agree. The baby boom was an identifiable group with a cultural thing in common.

      Things that identify the subsequent generations are too fractured to use as labels. The “post industrial”, “two incomes”, “post Christian”, “single working mother”, “minimum wage with a humanities degree” generations would all start and end at different times in different places.

      The identifying characteristics of culture now are technological:

      For boys, the C-64, Atari, Intellivision, Nintendo, Genesis, Play Station, X-box progression covers a large underperforming slice of humanity. No girls there.

      For girls the same time was a go to college for a career, choose something you didn’t like to please your parents, spend three years in a crappy job, decide whether to marraige-and-kids out of it, then regret whichever path you took because you did or didn’t end up with kids drowning in entitlement. No boys there.

      For lefties it’s been a grassy knoll conspiracy, Nixon hating, Reagan lied about Contras, yet another Vietnam that noone cares about in the Middle East, Clinton worshipping, Corporate welfare protesting, gay rights as a nostalgic reliving of civil rights, Ozoneless global warming, Wall street protesting generation.

      For righties it’s been a can we stop talking about f’ng Kennedy, Carter hating, Reagan rebuilt America, just bomb ‘em and get the dang oil, Lewinsky impeaching, job outsourcing, I have a good friend who’s gay and I still think its wrong, Internet Al is a doofus, keep your hands off my IRA generation.

      The universal might have been “Computer at home, cell phone in the pocket, stop making me buy the same song on 100 different media devices” generation, but we’re not allowed to categorize ourselves. THe f’n boomers coopted our movement and folded it into their own agenda.

      • CitizenWhy says:

        Your definition of left is distorted. Try worker-owned coop businesses, defending the FDR reforms, opposing knee-jerk wars. Clinton is not left. He started the New Democrats, that is, transforming the Democratic party into a moderate Republican Party that accepted the inevitability of corporate rule. His main accomplishments were Republican: reforming welfare “as we know it,” passing NAFTA, and eliminating budget deficits. He could eliminate budget deficits because … 1. The US still had a healthy job market but ceased to have one as NAFTA effects came into play. … 2. Corporations, the rich, and most of the rest of us paid higher taxes. … 3. He avoided putting “troops on the ground” abroad.

    • CitizenWhy says:

      I’m a Silent. I was the first among friends, most younger or much younger, to buy my own computer (by phone). I had to figure out how to defrag it and did so in a weird but effective way. That stupid computer still worked perfectly 25 years later (although it was just a decoration by then). Now I do Apple, avoid cell phones, and am recovering from overuse of the internet. But I like the Cloud. My older brother thinks email is complicated (lol) and doesn’t use it, but he was a C level exec and the secretaries did everything technical. To me a computer is just a tool, Facebook is a source from strangers of useful info or funny stuff or cultural events. God forbid I should give my real name, birthday or location. So I don’t have to worry about people I know trying to “friend” me.

  10. Willy2 says:

    - I personally would let the age of the “Baby Boomers” end in 1962 when US births peaked.
    - But the US “Baby Boom” already began in ~ 1934, 1935 not 1946. Harry S. Dent has a birth chart adjusted for immigration & emigration and then the Baby Boom began in ~ 1935. So, the “Baby Boom” lasted from ~ 1935 up to 1962. (Dent’s demographics are solid as a rock).
    That has some very MAJOR implications. That means that the Boomers already started to enroll in Social Security (SS) around 2000 in droves and the amount of seniors that apply for SS WILL increase EVERY year up to ~ 2027.
    - There’s another interesting detail in the population chart. While the amount of people born in 1946 has decreased (slightly), the amount of people born in 1960 has actually increased !!!! (Keyword: Immigration).
    - It seems (!!!) that the death rate for people older starts to increase.

    • Willy2 says:

      Oooops. Typo.
      - It seems (!!!) that the death rate for people older than ~ 50 always starts to increase.(both in 1970 & 2012)

      - Migration to the south is also driven by people who want to move to a dryer and warmer climate (e.g. Arizona). But it will be an additional burden for the US taxpayer.

  11. rswojo says:

    The Greatest Generation should be called the Horniest Generation. They created all these Boomers. If they could have kept their peckers in their pants where they belonged the generations the Baby Boomers brought into this world would have less to complain about.

    • It followed 5 years of war and separation of men from families.

      The boom is pretty understandable in that context

      • peacock says:

        I was born in 1959, the fifth of six children. My mother says every time she told my father she was pregnant, he was happy. His many children were a validation of his sexual prowess. He was in a competition to have the most children. It was a result of his machismo.

      • seneca says:

        “War and separation” might account for a post-war surge in births lasting a few years, but the Baby Boom lasted almost 20 years.

        Men were drafted at 18. Many, like my father, completed their service while still in their early to mid-twenties, before the usual age of marrying and having children. For those men, the war did not interrupt or interfere with their normal years of procreation.

        The greatest crime of the “Greatest Generation” is it produced too many children, more than could be properly educated and acculturated. Hence, the great cultural dislocation of the ’60s.

    • CitizenWhy says:

      Or the Social Revolution generation. For the first time in the modern US you had hordes of late teens/early twenties living away from their families. Thus experimenting with sex, cigs, alcohol, drugs, etc. No surprise their children created the “60s” and tended to live away from home.

  12. NeutralObserver says:

    Looking at this plot of births vs. time, it seems to me that drawing any distinctions is rather arbitrary.

    (United States birth rate (births per 1000 population).

    All I can really see is that we’re a lot more births after 1945 and then there was a steep decline around 1958 that continues until about 1975.

  13. gflander says:


    Guten Tag!

    I somehow don’t like being moved any closer to a Gen X’r in definition…

    I agree –the tweener group is an odd pocket of culture – it depends on what local “pocket” you were in. We were a nation rapidly on our way to the current “polarized divide”.

    Musically, I like good hard rock, but can tolerate the better Country and Western classics, and have sung doo wop on the street corner for beer and pizza money (don’t tell the IRS).

    Guess I am all (pleasantly) mixed-up.



  14. Jack says:

    I know the “Lost Generation” is taken but those of us born between say, 1936 and 1945, are pretty much nameless. And that’s a good thing. We are not in a category that is clearly defined. I’m a 1941-er. I’m not a “depression child” or a Madison Avenue Boomer.

    I’d call us the “Lucky Decade”. Mostly too young for Korea, too old for Vietnam (I served 1965-1966, not in Vietnam). We had to decide between Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra et. al. and Alan Freed’s rock and roll revolution. This is 1954. I’m 13 years old and wearing buckle in the back chinos along with my Flagg Flyers. I want pegged pants but Mom says NO!

    Still not sure the Beatles were very good but Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Theresa Brewer and lots of others were very good.

  15. WKWV says:

    I was born in late 1958 to a mother who worked for Boeing during WW2 and a father who wasn’t old enough to get a drivers license until after the war. I hated being told how evil and spoiled my generation was when I was still only 9 or 10 years old. I was a Girl Scout – I didn’t have any control over the older ones! I went through puberty during Watergate, graduated from college during a double dip recession, and never qualified as a Yuppie. I still feel like a generation of one. Never dropped acid, never been to a commune, never crashed anyone’s economy, either. Sorry guys, we are not all alike.

  16. S Brennan says:

    With are due respect Barry…meh,

    This theme is more divide & conquer. Race, economic class, sex and immigration…or coming of age in an expanding economic moment are better predictors of outcome than meaningless 20 year dichotomies.

  17. Crocodile Chuck says:


    Interesting that you chose 1959 for your breakpoint


    A fun, interesting read.

  18. I used to try to use terms like “tweener” to point out that generational definitions that try to divide everybody into clearly delineated 18-20 year groupings that uses the 1946-1964 increase in birthrates to define one group, but also considers WWII, The Vietnam War, and the creation of the internet as the major events that shaped generations doesn’t really make sense, but I finally gave up on it. Instead, I think it might be easier to convince people to start saying “Diabolical Demographic” instead of “Baby Boomer.” In cultural terms, “Baby Boomer”clearly doesn’t describe people born in the the early 60′s. As <a href="http://rall.com/1994/11/05/marketing-madness-a-postmortem-for-generation-x“>Ted Rall put it twenty years ago:

    “I was born in 1963. Time classifies me as a Baby Boomer. According to them, my defining cultural moments include the hippie musical Hair and my first kiss at a drive-in (never mind that I was 5 when Hair came out, or that drive-ins were extinct long before I hit puberty). The Atlantic Monthly, however, presumes that I’m into Ice-T and Nirvana.”

    Apparently, Ted Rall noticed the generational gerrymander that made us baby boomers while it was taking place. Personally, I’m so slow on the uptake that I was well into my forties before I realized that I had become part of what used to be called the “Vietnam Generation” or “Hippie Generation” or a number of other terms that were used at least as often as “Baby Boomer.” Hell, I’m still amazed when I hear people my age refer to themselves as baby boomers.

    However, if I’m one of the 78 million people who are bankrupting a once great nation by retiring all at once over the course of eighteen years while simultaneously screwing over younger people by collectively refusing to retire so they can have our jobs, I don’t want to change labels to avoid taking responsibility. So, I think “Diabolical Demographic” is a better term than “Baby Boomer.” It doesn’t bring to mind The Vietnam War or The Summer Of Love, but it also doesn’t deny being one of the 78 million people who are destroying the country by retiring all at once over the course of 18 years while simultaneously blocking the career advancement of younger people by refusing to retire.

    More seriously, I think most political, policy or sociological discussions that rely on generational labels don’t just fall under Sturgeon’s Law, but are examples of Sturgeon’s law squared. My personal experiences* have convinced that 90% of what we think of as generational differences are really age differences disguised by changes in slang and fashion, and 90% of the discussion of what’s left is crap — usually pushed by people with something to sell or a political agenda (often a divide and conquer strategy on behalf of the 1%) or by lazy journalists using a convenient shorthand. The “Worst Generation” link in the text above is a case in point.
    *Kept waiting tables for years after college, over the course of 15-20 years, I worked and drank with people anywhere from several years older than me to several years younger. Started working at a university in mid-forties, used the tuition waiver to take a few classes.

  19. oops, don’t blog anymore. Apparently, I’ve forgotten how to use hyperlinks. The Rall piece is longish, but it’s interesting to read twenty years later. http://rall.com/1994/11/05/marketing-madness-a-postmortem-for-generation-x

  20. Julia Chestnut says:

    My parents are classic boomers. My spouse was born in 1963, and displays a lot of their characteristics – he’s intensely fond of consuming, but he also has this other ethos tacked on about how he’s “not into material things.” To me, he has the attitudes of a boomer but none of the shared formative experiences.

    I guess he got a hot younger chick because I’m definitely gen X in attitudes. And experiences, I guess – I have the ugly prom pictures to prove it.

  21. constantnormal says:

    I really liked the age distribution chart at the end … one can easily see the (casualty) impact of WWII and the last of the pre-antibiotic die-offs – acerbated by the global mobility during WWII, with a lot of people being exposed to (and bringing home) new bacteria & viruses … followed by the antibiotic conversion of the classical demographic pyramid into the current (and likely temporary, as diseases evolve to meet the challenge of antibiotics) pretty much linear demography, at least until old age begins to take its toll.

    One question: there was a noticeable winnowing (about 8%-10%, according to my finely calibrated eyes) that occurred about 1976 … what happened there? We had the troops returning home from Viet Nam, the economic discombobulation that our idiots in DC made worse with wage & price controls, but neither of those things seems big enough to account for the observed population contraction. When did effective birth control drugs go mainstream? But even if it was that, why was the population reduction temporary?

  22. montag says:

    I was born in 1964, but on the west coast and I definitely fit, along with many of my friends, in Gen-X. I actually read Douglas Coupland’s book (Generation X) when it came out in 1991, and although we didn’t check out and move to Palm Springs, it’s definitely a sentiment we could identify with. It is amusing to read demographers lump my group into the Boomers, because we are nothing like that stereotype at all. However, I have met people my age who grew up on the east coast who did seem to fit better in the Boomer generation. There seems to be a strong regional component that is often not taken into account in these generational categories.

  23. ancientone says:

    The last chart on the lower right is very informative……for years we’ve been told that not enough workers will be around to pay our Boomer Social Security benefits, because the “Boom” was such a historical birth rate anomaly. The population seems to have stayed pretty much at the higher level ever since the increase; why the scare tactics?

  24. ancientone says:

    If we raised the maximum income for the payroll tax to $200,000 Social Security would never run out of money……..oh, wait, that would inconvenience wealthier people; we can’t have that!

  25. leeward says:

    Strauss & Howe’s book The Fourth Turning (1996) is a real classic. It was this that taught me the value of both seeing multiple time horizons and seeing problems from different perspectives. It also was the catalyst for a lot of other perspectives on trending reading generally. So when I read Neil Howe’s WaPo Who is the Real ‘Dumbest Generation’? and this line, “Their only alternative was to pioneer the pragmatic, free-agent, low-credential lifestyle for which Generation X has since become famous. “… it stopped me. Now being a 64′ myself the piece struck home in a few great ways. It’s hard not to appreciate it. But looking at the same problem set using social mood as the basis for how we collectively create when gathered together into groups and the picture is made much more interesting (and useful) having both to compare.

  26. SecondLook says:


    For some years there was a fairly honest concern about the future size of the workforce and its impact on SS. However, it didn’t figure in the larger birthrate of immigrants, nor did those worried realize the that boomers were simply starting their families later, in fact that cohort managed to eventually duplicate themselves; the children of boomers are equal in number to their parents. The lack of social impact is that they are part of an overall larger population – there are half again as many people in the U.S as when the boomers grew up.

    Increase the SS contribution cap to $250,000 with an upside benefit cap of $50,000 (Current max benefit is a little over $30,000 annually), and not only is SS solvent indefinitely, but the bottom benefits level can be increased by a couple of thousand; helping out the truly poor elderly at minor cost.

    One other thought(s) about boomers retiring. A two wage earner household could easily get $27,000 annually alone in SS benefits.With that $170,000 in median net assets, and a 4% withdrawal in cash or cash equivalent (completely paid off home for example), their household income might be near $35,000 – and that would be close to net, net, income. For some that may not sound like much, and in some areas of the country, certainly isn’t, but in reality it wouldn’t be that much lower than their pre-retirement income. Not that much different than their parents.