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The more than 77 million baby boomers currently account for more than half of all consumer spending and discretionary spending in the United States. Here and abroad they control a significant part of the total wealth. Just as their numbers made increased demands on the educational system as they entered school, this largest of generations will place demands on such areas as health care delivery as they age.
Statistics reveal to us a great deal about who the baby boomers are and why they are so important. To understand them, it is first necessary to define them. Author Landon Jones coined the term baby boomer to reflect the actual booming birthrate occurring in America, Canada, and most of western Europe in the period of relative peace and prosperity following World War II.
The United States Census delineates the baby boomers as those born between 1946 and 1964. While those born between 1946 and 1953 are usually simply called baby boomers, those born from 1954 to 1964 are also called “Generation Jones.” This is a reference to Landon Jones, an author and journalist who is believed to have coined the term baby boomer. A recent term has emerged to designate baby boomers who are in or approaching retirement: “Golden Boomers.”
The birthrates truly were a boom during these years and the aggregate total of U.S. baby boomers is more than 77 million people. It is without a doubt the largest generation in American history and as such wields tremendous influence. The demands of their numbers resulted in such necessities as the construction of many more public schools and the need for more teachers.
As the baby boomers entered the workforce, their economic impact grew by leaps and bounds. Today baby boomers account for more than half of discretionary spending and more than half of all consumer spending. In Great Britain, it is estimated that baby boomers control more than 80% of the total wealth of the nation.
As the baby boomers age, the most important statistic is how many of them reach the usual retirement age each year. Given the birth rate for each year of the baby boomer period, this means about four million will be ready to retire each year for nearly two decades beginning in January of 2011.
Since baby boomers already account for more than three quarters of the prescription drug spending in America, as they age and develop the health concerns associated with aging, these numbers are likely to increase. The large numbers of aging baby boomers will add stress and expense to an already strained health care delivery system.