A Tribute to Richard James Arnott

Richard James ArnottRichard James Arnott, Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), passed peacefully at his home in Riverside on April 21, 2023, after a short battle with leukemia. He was 74 years old.

Born on January 23, 1949, in London to Drs. David Charles and Ruth Margaret Arnott, Richard spent his childhood in England and Canada. He received his B.S. in Urban Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969, an M.A. in Economics from the University of Toronto in 1971, and another M.A. and an M.Phil. in Economics from Yale University in 1972. In 1975, he earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Yale under the guidance of Joseph E. Stiglitz, who would later receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001. Richard’s Ph.D. Dissertation, entitled Topics in Residential Location Theory, pioneered the analysis of the interaction between public finance and the spatial allocation of households, leading to a theory of optimal city size in a spatial economy.

Before joining UCR in 2007, Richard taught at Queen’s University (Canada) from 1975 to 1988, and Boston College from 1988 to 2007. He was affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research as a Research Associate from 1991 to 2005. He had also taken visiting positions at the École Normale Supérieure (Paris), Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Oxford, and many other prominent institutions in America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania.

Richard was a multidimensional thinker with diverse interests. Primarily an urban economic theorist, Richard published prominently in urban, public, and transportation economics as well as in microeconomic theory. Examples of his research topics include the optimal city, traffic congestion, the housing market, moral hazard, public finance, urban transportation, and land use. Stiglitz cited ten of his joint works with Richard in his Nobel Prize lecture as having motivated, facilitated, or extended the shift of paradigm in economics toward one that centers our understanding of the market and public policy around problems of information. Richard made significant contributions, primarily theoretical and methodological, to the discipline of regional science throughout his career; for this, he was awarded the Hoyt Academic Fellowship by the Homer Hoyt Institute in 2001, was elected as a Fellow of the Regional Science Association International in 2006, and received the Walter Isard Award of the North American Regional Science Council in 2008.

As part of his professional service, Richard edited the Journal of Economic Geography from 1999 to 2003 and Regional Science and Urban Economics from 2003 to 2007, and he served on over twenty editorial boards. As William S. Vickrey passed away soon after the announcement that he would receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1996, Richard served as the archivist of Vickrey’s papers at Columbia University from October 1996 to the end of 1997. Richard also served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Economics Association from 1981 to 1984 and as the Vice President of the International Transportation Economics Association from 2010 to 2012. In 2015, Economics of Transportation, the official journal of the International Transportation Economics Association, published a special issue in honor of Richard, not only for his scientific contributions, but also for his many contributions to the journal, the association, and the profession. On campus, Richard assumed numerous administrative responsibilities at the departmental and university levels at Queen’s, Boston College, and UCR, and always fulfilled them with diligence and efficiency. At UCR, among many responsibilities, he served as Chair of the Committee on Research, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Planning and Budget, on the CHASS Executive Committee, and two stints as Graduate Advisor in the Department of Economics. For the public, he advised the Department of Finance of Canada, Treasury Board of Canada, Executive Council of Ontario (Canada), and Province of Ontario (Canada).

One of Richard’s major contributions to the profession was as a mentor to students and junior colleagues. In his career, he supervised or advised more than 70 Ph.D. dissertations at Queen’s, Boston College, and UCR, and many of these students are now tenured professors and have had fruitful research careers. Richard was highly respected, on campus and in the profession, not only for his scholarly contributions, but also for the intellectual support and advice that he generously provided to his colleagues.

Richard was a soft-spoken gentleman with impeccable manners in the best of old English traditions. He will be remembered for his scholarship, service, and mentoring, as well as for his witty humor and enthusiasm for the music of Mozart, films of Alec Guinness, and the game of baseball. But most of all, he will be remembered as an empathic, kind, caring, and generous human being.

Richard is survived and missed by his twin brother John, his sister Jane, and dog Dirk. He asked not to have a service. Information about a scholarship to be created in his name will be forthcoming on the Department of Economics webpage. We will all miss him dearly.