Monday, October 28, 2019

Hey! Not All the Gray Hairs Are Boomers

How many of the Democratic presidential candidates are baby boomers? Not as many as you think, unless you're a reporter who assumes anyone with graying hair is a member of the baby-boom generation. That's what Politico writer Ben White assumed recently in his article How the Baby Boomers Broke America—classifying both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden as boomers along with Elizabeth Warren. Of the three, Warren is the only baby boomer, born in 1949. Bernie Sanders (1941) and Joe Biden (1942) were born well before the boomer birth years of 1946 to 1964. Both Sanders and Biden are members of the "Silent Generation."

Only 4 of the 12 Democrats who qualified to participate in the October debate are baby boomers: Warren (1949), Tom Steyer (1957), Amy Klobuchar (1960), and Kamala Harris (1964). Just as well represented at the debate were Generation Xers. Four of the candidates were born during the Gen X birth years of 1965 through 1976: Cory Booker (1969), Beto O'Rourke (1972), Julian Castro (1974), and Andrew Yang (1975). Another two participants in the debate were Millennials, the generation born from 1977 through 1994: Tulsi Gabbard (1981) and Pete Buttigieg (1982).

Number of Democratic presidential candidates by generation 
2 from the Silent generation
4 from the Baby-boom generation
4 from Generation X
2 from the Millennial generation

The winner of the Democratic presidential primary will face Republican Donald Trump on election day 2020. Trump is a baby boomer, born in 1946. He is younger than Sanders and Biden, but older than the other Democrats.

Note: Ben White of Politico is not the only journalist who has been careless with generational definitions. David Brooks, in his New York Times column, Your Baby Boomer Report Card, also got it wrong. First, he said anyone born after 1960 doesn't count as a boomer, including Barack Obama (born in 1961). Sorry, but you can't cherry pick generational identity. Second, Brooks classified Bob Dylan as a boomer, but Dylan is a member of the Silent Generation (born in 1941 and a few months older than Bernie Sanders). Generational definitions seem to get sloppy when writers are trying a little too hard to make a point.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the birth years of presidential candidates

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