Baby boom is a term that is heard quite frequently to describe a generation of Americans. Do you know where it came from? Decades ago from the mid-1940s through the 1950s, lots of couples married and had babies. While this is nothing unusual, the rate of births was so high that the children born then were said to be part of a baby boom. World War II played a big part in the baby boom. Two World War II veterans, Cdr. Tyler Gresham and Lt. Col. Charles Dryden, talk about being separated from home and their loved ones during the war, and the heartbreaking situations they faced. For all soldiers, fighting a war on another continent meant loneliness and longing to be with family members. June Duncan, wife of Gen. L.C. Duncan, describes what it was like when the soldiers did return home. Most were eager to settle down, marry, and start their own families. Women were encouraged to stop working and have families rather than careers. Between 1946 and 1951, a record 22 million children were born in the United States. Emory University history professor Patrick Allitt discusses the many ways that babies stimulate the economy. New parents purchase strollers, baby food, diapers, clothes, and they may need bigger cars. The baby boom lasted about 20 years, peaking in 1957 when 27.5 million babies were born.
Teacher tip: Sociologists have named and identified characteristics for each new generation. Ask students to do further research to identify later generations in American society and the characteristics assigned to them.