Say hello to the Boomer Grannies.
These grandmothers are, as the name suggests, baby boomers, part of a generation that was born between mid-1946 and mid-1964. The oldest boomers turn 70 next year, but the majority of boomers aren’t going to be eligible for retirement benefits until closer to 2030. Within this population of middle-aged boomers, women outnumber men.
Boomer Grannies transformed gender norms—by being the first in their families to get bachelor’s degrees, earning the majority of college degrees in their generation; working outside the home; raising children, often singlehandedly; and revolutionizing the concepts of modern motherhood and feminism.
This generation of grandmas is more hip than the crocheting, bingo-playing, anti-technology stereotype would suggest. They’re too young—and perhaps, too cynical—to rely on classic social-welfare programs that drive the older vote, but they are nevertheless invested in issues affecting their children and grandchildren.
It makes a certain amount of sense that the soccer moms of yore are making a reappearance as a key voting bloc. Boomer Grannies are more world-weary than gracious, more educated than docile; their concern for posterity extends beyond the traditional “maternal” interests of education and healthcare. Today, these grandmas are just as interested in the implications of foreign-conflict intervention and tax reform as they are in paid leave and anti-poverty initiatives.
Clinton’s status as a frontrunner in the potential Democratic Presidential field has excited this very demographic, to her advantage. After all, these aging soccer moms are comfortable with a Clinton in the White House. Boomer Grannies greet the former Secretary of State like a rockstar, and often convey that somehow, Clinton “gets” them.
Part of this cohort’s grandmotherly concern for posterity may have to do with its shared experience of parenthood itself, says Laurel Elder, a professor of political science at Hartwick College who, along with Steven Greene at North Carolina State University, has published the only study of how being a mom affects choices at the ballot box.
“We’ve found very consistent motherhood effects,” she told me. “Even when you’re controlling for other variables, motherhood predicts more liberal attitudes. Being a mom makes you more supportive on government spending on education and daycare and on a whole range of social-welfare issues: spending on the elderly, spending on the poor, overall government services.”
But do these effects continue when the kids those moms raised leave the house? That’s a complicated and under-explored question. Elder said that “even mothers of grown children are more liberal.” Members of this younger generation of grandmothers are still concerned about posterity, but are also committed to advancing their own interests, prioritizing women’s workplace issues like equal pay and paid leave.