Baby boom

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US Birthrate in the 1900s

The Baby Boom consists of Americans born between 1946 (the end of World War II) and the late 1960s (the beginning of the Vietnam War). The United States during this period benefited from strong religious values, peace and prosperity, and there were large numbers of marriages and births.

Technically, the Baby Boom was the upsurge in the birth rate in the United States between 1941 and 1963; the exact beginning date is debated in the range of 1941-45.

Between the end of World War II and 1964, 78 million baby boomers were born and now are part of the "Boomers" generation. They far outnumbered their predecessors, for the birth rate was low during the Great Depression years of the 1930s. They have been retiring in large numbers and greatly imcreasing the number of people in retirement and receiving Social Security.

St. Joseph Hospital, Chicago, 1941

The boomers are much better educated and have higher incomes than previous generations of Americans.

Other countries had a much smaller "boom" after 1945.

The birthrate rose and fell during the baby boom years:

1940 - 2,559,000 births per year
1946 - 3,311,000 births per year
1955 - 4,097,000 births per year
1957 - 4,300,000 births per year
1964 - 4,027,000 births per year
1974 - 3,160,000 births per year

Easterlin Models

Richard Easterlin is an economist and professor of economics who has researched and published much literature on economic growth in the United States.

trends in birth rates 1900-1980

In one of Easterlin’s articles, published in 2000, titled, Twentieth Century American Population Growth, he explains the growth pattern of American population in the twentieth century by examining the fertility rate fluctuations and the decreasing mortality rate. In his article, Easterlin attempts to prove the cause of the Baby Boom and Baby Bust by the “relative income” theory, despite the various other theories that these events have been attributed to. The “relative income” theory suggests that couples choose to have children based on a couple’s ratio of potential earning power and the desire to obtain material objects. This ratio depends on the economic stability of country and how people are raised to value material objects. The “relative income” theory explains the Baby Boom by suggesting that the late 1940s and 1950s brought low desires to have material objects, because of the Great Depression and WWII, as well as huge job opportunities, because of being a post war period. These two factors gave rise to a high relative income, which encouraged high fertility. Following this period, the next generation had a greater desire for material objects, however, an economic slowdown in the United States, made jobs harder to acquire. This resulted in lower fertility rates causing the Baby Bust.

See also


May 19, 1986 issue
  • Barkan, Elliott Robert. From All Points: America's Immigrant West, 1870s-1952, (2007) 598 pages
  • Barrett, Richard E., Donald J. Bogue, and Douglas L. Anderton. The Population of the United States 3rd Edition (1997) compendium of data
  • Carter, Susan B., Scott Sigmund Gartner, Michael R. Haines, and Alan L. Olmstead, eds. The Historical Statistics of the United States (Cambridge UP: 6 vol; 2006) vol 1 on population; available online; massive data compendium; online version in Excel
  • Chadwick Bruce A. and Tim B. Heaton, eds. Statistical Handbook on the American Family. (1992)
  • Easterlin, Richard A. The American Baby Boom in Historical Perspective, (1962), the single most influential study complete text online
  • Easterlin, Richard A. Birth and Fortune: The Impact of Numbers on Personal Welfare (1987), by leading economist excerpt and text search
  • Gillon, Steve. Boomer Nation: The Largest and Richest Generation Ever, and How It Changed America (2004), by leading historian. excerpt and text search
  • Hawes Joseph M. and Elizabeth I. Nybakken, eds. American Families: a Research Guide and Historical Handbook. (Greenwood Press, 1991)
  • Klein, Herbert S. A Population History of the United States. Cambridge University Press, 2004. 316 pp
  • Macunovich, Diane J. Birth Quake: The Baby Boom and Its Aftershocks (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Mintz Steven and Susan Kellogg. Domestic Revolutions: a Social History of American Family Life. (1988)
  • Wells, Robert V. Uncle Sam's Family (1985), general demographic history
  • Weiss, Jessica. To Have and to Hold: Marriage, the Baby Boom, and Social Change (2000) excerpt and text search