Rainwater Delivers His Final Lecture at Harvard

Professor of Sociology Retires after 23 Years; Best Known for Work on Plight of Urban Poor

Champagne and applause capped off Professor of Sociology Lee Rainwater's last lecture at Harvard, held in William James Hall yesterday.

Rainwater, best known for his in vestigations into the plight of the urban poor, is retiring after 23 years in the Sociology Department.

"He's done classic works on the culture of poverty and the nature of the American stratification system," said Professor of Sociology James A. Davis, who delivered the champagne along with other senior department members.

"He's done a lot for Harvard," said Jessica A. Downie '95, a Sociology concentrator in Rainwater's fall class. "He's had some really interesting effects on the way people think about poverty, the direction the country could go."

This fall, Rainwater co-taught Sociology 166, "Poverty and the American Underclass," with Visiting Professor of Sociology Christopher Winship, who was once a graduate research assistant with Rainwater at Harvard and will teach the class alone next fall.


"Lee has always tried to keep the literature read on the cutting edge," Winship said. "I'll try to continue that."

While Rainwater's research of the 1960s focused on the culture of poverty in the United States, his most recent work has aimed to compare poverty data and social policy initiatives from different nations, said Professor of Education and Social Structure Nathan Glazer. "His own orientation has been that we [in the U.S.] tend to place the level of poverty really too low," he said.

"His research has been important in explaining why we don't use income redistribution policy as much as other countries do to bring up the incomes of the lowest income strata," Glazer said.

Rainwater's research in Europe and the U.S. will continue at or above its current pace, said Professor of Sociology Peter V. Marsden, the department's current chair. Since 1983, Rainwater has been research director of the Luxembourg Income Study.

"He's been one of the leading American scholars on issues of policy," said Marsden. "We regret losing a senior colleague."

Toby N. Romer '94, a Social Studiesconcentrator in Rainwater's fall class, called thecourse "an excellent introduction to poverty andthe problems of urban America, with lots of reallyinteresting guest lecturers."

Rainwater's previous positions include a 1987to 1988 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 1983 to 1984German Marshall Fellowship.

Rainwater could not be reached for commentyesterday

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