Daniel Lichter has been a prominent voice in the population sciences over the course of his decorated career. He currently sits as the Ferris Family Professor, Emeritus, in the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and the Department of Sociology, at Cornell University.
Raised in South Dakota, Dan’s rural roots have grounded his scholarship, teaching, and mentorship in demography. He earned his B.S. in Sociology with a minor in Economics from South Dakota State University in 1975, before earning an M.S. in Sociology from Iowa State University, and a Ph.D. in Sociology, with a minor in Statistics, in 1981 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dan began his career in the Sociology Department at Penn State University, where he quickly moved through the ranks of Associate (1987) and Full (1992) Professor. Dan was recruited to join the faculty of the Department of Sociology at the Ohio State University in 1999, where he served as the Robert F. Lazarus Professor in Population Studies. In 2005, Dan transition to Ithaca, NY and joined faculties of Policy Analysis & Management and Sociology at Cornell.
Dan’s early research focused on demographic change in rural America, particularly the roles that social and economic hardship played in exacerbating inequality in nonmetropolitan regions. This scholarship highlighted the heightened level of poverty faced by black Americans in the rural south. While Dan’s focus on inequality and population patterns in rural America remained a mainstay of his career, he also made significant contribution to understanding family formation behaviors of low-income Americans. His influential studies detailed the growing incidence of single-parent families and the social and economic challenges they faced. Dan’s scholarship has also made important contributions to studies of the living arrangements among disadvantaged women and their children, including impactful work studying how the intersections between demographic structures, economic inequality, and race shape the marital and union formation behaviors of American women. His contributions to family demography also include foundational research on interracial union formation, including scholarship described the processes of martial assimilation, and roles of nativity and generational change on the marriage patterns between groups.
Dan’s scholarship has also sought to understand spatial inequalities related to racial residential segregation, both in the largest urban centers and in smaller cities and towns. His research in this area has documented the shifting nature of segregation from micro-level sorting to macro-level exclusion. Dan and his colleagues were also among the first to identify the wide-reaching impacts that immigration – and associated fertility behaviors – have had on diversifying small towns across the geographic landscape. In recent years, Dan has focused on understanding how racial diversity shapes futures both in the U.S. and in Europe, exploring how the racial transformations that stem from diversity change will require corresponding transformations in opportunity structures to ensure integration.
In addition to Dan’s enormous contributions to demographic research, he has played a prominent role in supporting and advocating for the population sciences. Dan was at the Penn State Population Research Instituted when they received the first NICHD infrastructure grant and, under his directorship (1995-1999), secured on the successful center grant renewals. He served as the founding director (2000-2005) of Ohio State’s Institute for Population Research, again securing NICHD center support. Following his arrival to Cornell, he played an instrumental role in launching the Cornell Population Center, which he directed from 2011-2015. From 2002-2004, Dan served as Editor of Demography, the flagship journal in population science. He has served professional associations in population studies in numerous ways, including as President of the Population Association of America in 2012 and President of the Rural Sociological Society from 2010-2011. In recognition of his remarkable career, he was awarded career distinction from the Rural Sociological Society in 2018 and the Family Section of the American Sociological Association in 2018.
Over the course of his career, Dan has mentored hundreds of students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty members. His wisdom, creativity, generosity, and spirit have inspired many more and serve as foundational supports for the future of population science.
In sum, Dr. Lichter is an outstanding demographer, who has broadened the discipline through his exceptional and path-breaking research on linking demography to poverty, racial diversity, marriage, families and the rural-urban continuum. His research is of a consistent high quality; theoretically informed; grounded in recent scholarship; and uses contemporary data and sophisticated analytical techniques to address topics of both academic and policy relevance. The importance of his work is evident in the 22,000 citations it has received according to Google Scholar. His tireless representation of demography in academic, government, nonprofit and policy environments has raised the visibility of the discipline in both the academic and public arenas. He has served the Population Association in many roles and the impact of his work will continue to be reflected in the discipline through his efforts to prepare the next generation of population scholars through his generous mentoring, encouragement, and support.