“I think the Boomers were raised in probably one of the most patriotic periods of the country,” says sociologist Frederick R. Lynch, 70, author of One Nation Under AARP: The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security & America’s Future and professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College.
And even the most divisive moments of American history experienced by Boomers—and there were a lot of those—served in some ways to unite the generation through personal experience with the civil rights, antiwar, and women’s movements of the ’60s and ’70s.
“We got out of World War II and thought ‘we are the greatest in history,’ then we got to college and realized that lot of the stuff we were told in high school is a lie,” Lynch argues. “I think the Vietnam War also made Boomers more wary about meddling in other countries. No more Vietnams.”
Later in their lives, however, the generation began to splinter more, especially along economic lines—after all, by the time they were entering the workforce in large numbers, the prosperity of their childhoods was beginning to ebb. “Educated, well off baby boomers tended to do well under globalization; blue-collar, less educated boomers got hit hard beginning in the 1970s when industrial plants moved overseas or imported cheap labor,” Lynch explains. “In the 1980s and 1990s, downsizing and re-engineering hit white collar workers, and the practices of hiring more part-time, contract employees took shape. Eventually, these practices hit all generations, but boomers were the first to get caught up at ground zero of this transition.