The popular image of baby boomers is of white, suburban kids who grew up watching "The Mickey Mouse Club"
and protested the Vietnam War, not the children who came of age during the Reagan era.
But a study by two Duke University sociologists reveals baby boomers to be a diverse group of people whose experiences differ not only from those of previous generations, but also from each other. Among the findings from researchers Mary Elizabeth Hughes and Angela M. O'Rand:
Baby boomers are diverse
Immigration has played a major role in increasing the diversity of the baby boomers. About 12 percent of the early
boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) are foreign-born, compared to 15 percent of late boomers (born between 1956 and 1964.) The percentage of African Americans has not changed a great deal over time, but the percentage of Hispanic and Asian Americans has increased dramatically.
Diversity has not led to equality
Baby boomers are the first generation to come of age after the Civil Rights era. Yet the authors found differences of income according to race, ethnicity and country of birth so entrenched that, in effect, they are ethnic classes. Blacks in the boomer generation, for example, are no better off relative to whites than their parents and grandparents. And educational levels also are unequal across the baby boom generation, which is often described as the best-educated generation in history.
Many boomers live in poverty
At midlife, boomers have the highest wage inequality of any recent generation. Late boomers have the highest levels of poverty since the generation born before World War I. One in 10 late boomers lives in poverty at middle age.