(December 2002) "Way too many," say the 30-somethings waiting for a promotion behind layers of middle managers with seniority, or the Gen-Xers wondering when "oldies" radio stations will start playing music from the 1980s. But that answer is not precise enough for demographers.
Press accounts give various numbers, with 79 million a popular choice. There were actually 76 million births in the United States from 1946 to 1964, inclusive, the 19 years usually called the "baby boom." (By contrast, there were only 66 million births, in a larger U.S. population, during the 19 years following the baby boom, which included the baby bust of the 1970s.) Of the 76 million born, about 4 million had died by April 1, 2000 (when Census 2000 was taken), leaving some 72 million survivors.
Census 2000 counted 79.6 million U.S. residents born in the years 1946 to 1964, inclusive. That number is higher than the 76 million births because net immigration (the number of people coming into the United States from other countries, minus those moving the other way) more than outweighed the number of deaths. The flow of immigrants greatly increased after passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, just as the baby boom was ending.
So one can use either of these figures to approximate the number of baby boomers — the 72 million who grew up wearing Davy Crockett-style faux-raccoon hats, or the 79 million wearing parrot heads to Jimmy Buffett concerts now.
John Haaga is director of domestic programs at PRB.