Paper Examines Impact of Baby Boomers

April 25, 2012 ( – A white paper by the MetLife Mature Market Institute looks at a number of theories about the impact Baby Boomers have had on American society.  

The paper, “How Boomers Turned Conventional Wisdom on Its Head: A Historian’s View on How the Future May Judge a Transitional Generation,” written by historian W. Andrew Achenbaum, notes that those born between 1946 and 1955 changed conventional American life stages, redefined inclusivity and contributed to the health of all Americans. According to the report, they are also the first generation whose impact continues well into middle age and beyond.

Boomers Rearranged the Three Boxes of Life

Instead of going to school, entering the labor force after high school and retiring in their 60’s, Boomers rearranged the traditional life stages. Many went to college, entered the work force a little later and changed jobs a number of times, rather than remaining with one employer. Retirement became phased as people “unretired” and re-entered the work force in encore careers.

Boomers Widened the Range of Inclusivity

Boomers did not necessarily instigate the various struggles for equality over the past six decades, but this generation institutionalized an ethos of inclusivity in U.S. society.

Boomers Advanced Healthfulness—Structurally and Personally

Advances in adult Boomer life expectancy were attributed to medical breakthroughs in heart disease and strokes as well as changed behaviors (smoking cessation, dietary modifications). While obesity and poor nutrition choices still remain an issue, Boomers incorporated preventive care into their life styles with nutrition, exercise and holistic medicine, leading to multi-billion dollar industries. 

Spiritual Quests for Meaning Changed Many Boomers' World Views

Advances in communication and transportation brought the world to Boomers. Many responded by traveling to remote sites like Africa and Southeast Asia to make a difference, while others preferred the comforts of home. Boomers managed to be cosmopolitan and parochial, simultaneously. Personal and collective searches for "meaning" reinforced values and norms that segments in this age group started to embrace in youth.

"Not content with living their parents' lives, Boomers pursued education, a multi-faceted work-life and a robust retirement," said Achenbaum. "Most Boomers exercised considerable independence in their life choices. They helped to ensure that freedoms applied to African Americans, women, new immigrants and gays, not just middle-class white males."

"Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the Boomers, the first of whom are now 65-years old, is that they continue to be relevant, making a contribution and remaining trendsetters" said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

How Boomers Turned Conventional Wisdom on Its Head: A Historian's View on How the Future May Judge a Transitional Generation” can be downloaded from