I was discussing the future of aging services in Michigan
with some colleagues from the Commission on Services to the Aging when the
phrase “the pig in the python” came up. It is now applied to all sorts of
statistical surges, but when it was first used in the early 1970s, it referred
exclusively to baby boomers.
Pythons can swallow large animals—pigs, sheep, and so on. As
the digestive process proceeds, the meal can be seen as a bulge slowly
traveling from the front end of the python to the back end.
A baby boomer is someone born right after World War II
(roughly 1946 to 1964) when a surge of births took place. Looking towards the
future, social changes could be predicted as this large cohort moved through
school, through the work force, through parenthood, and into retirement. To
some imaginative soul, the idea of a pig moving through the digestive process
in a python seemed to be an apt image. Personally, I find that it makes me
One early appearance was written by Russell Baker for the
April 21, 1974, issue of New York Times Magazine: “All very well for the bulge group, you may say. It will continue to
dominate society as it passes through the decades like a pig through a python.”
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