The baby boomer generation has left its imprint on every aspect of American culture. This large, but hardly cohesive, social group has presided over sweeping social changes, but also watched their own retirement prospects vanish just as they were about to claim them. So, what legacy will the baby boomers leave for future generations?
A recent Zogby Interactive poll of 4,811 adults conducted for the Aspen Institute gave respondents two choices about the historic legacy of those born between 1946 and 1964: self-indulgence or lasting social change. The most popular answer was the former. Some 42 percent of those surveyed said the baby boomers ushered in an era of consumerism and self-indulgence, while just 27 percent agreed that boomers would be remembered for helping to bring about lasting change in social and cultural values and ending a war. A significant percentage of the population also appears indifferent to the baby boomers, saying the will leave behind nothing really special (11 percent), they’re not sure (13 percent), or that boomers will be remembered primarily for some other reason (13 percent).
The baby boomers themselves, currently between the ages of 50 and 64, and their children aged 18 to 29 had the most favorable view of the baby boomer legacy, while those between the ages of 30 and 49 and especially those age 65 and older found the baby boomers to be especially self-indulgent. African Americans were the racial group most likely to credit boomers with social change, while whites were the most likely to call out their excesses. Republicans and Independents were more likely to point out the consumerism of the baby boomers, while Democrats were slightly more likely to credit the baby boomers with ending the Vietnam War and bringing about societal change.
Tell us, how will the baby boomers be remembered?
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