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August 1990, Vol. 113, No. 8
Population changes, the baby boom, and the unemployment rate
Paul O. Flaim
It is by now a fairly well-known fact that the post-World War II baby boom-which began with a sudden upsurge in births in 1946 and ended with a protracted decline in births in the 1960's-has had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on our society and economy. To cite but two areas in which this impact has been felt, our school facilities had to be expanded extensively during the 1950's and 1960's to take the care of the educational needs of the baby-boomers in their early years, and our Social Security system is now having to be bolstered considerably in anticipation of meeting the basic financial needs of the "boomers" in their retirement years.
These populations changes have also had a significant impact on the U. S. labor market and on the principal indicators of its health, particularly the unemployment rate. As millions of baby-boomers entered the world of work as teenagers and young adults in the late 1960's and throughout most of the 1970's, they swelled the ranks of a group which, mainly because of frequent entries into and exits from the labor force, has traditionally had a much higher incidence of unemployment than older workers. Thus, merely by expanding the proportion of youths in the labor force, the baby-boomers exerted considerable upward pressure on the Nation's overall jobless rate. By the end of the 1970's, this purely demographic effect had caused the overall unemployment rate to be higher than it had been at the end of the 1950's, even though the rates for most labor force groups had actually declined in the intervening years.
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 1990 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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