Development economist Dick Eckaus dies aged 96

MIT Emeritus Professor of International Economics Dick Eckaus has died at the age of 96.

He is widely known for his research on macroeconomic problems in developing economies, and his economic planning models.

His models were used by countries including India, Egypt, Bhutan, Mexico and Portugal to forecast economic growth, and led the Portuguese government to award him the Great-Cross of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator.

Eckaus earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1952, and returned to the institution in 1962, where he taught until his retirement in 1997. He served as head of the department of economics at MIT between 1986 and 1990.

In 1991, he helped to form the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT, Paul Joskow, said: “He was a real rock of the economics department. He deeply cared about the graduate students and younger faculty. He was a very supportive person.”

Columbia University Professor of Economics, Law and International Relations, emeritus, Jagdish Bhagwati, said; “ [Eckaus] was continuously retooling himself and creating new interests. I was impressed by his agility of mind and his willingness to shift to new areas,”

He added: “In their early career, economists usually write short theoretical articles that make large points, and Dick did that with two seminal articles in the leading professional journals of the time, the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the American Economic Review.”

“Then, he shifted his focus to building large computable models. He also diversified by working in an advisory capacity in countries as diverse as Portugal and India. He was a ‘complete’ economist who straddled all styles of economics with distinction.” 

Eckaus passed away in Boston on Sept. 11. He is survived by his wife Patricia Leahy, his daughter Susan Miller, step-son James Meaney (Braun), step-daughter Caitlin Meaney Burrows (Lee) and four grandchildren.

Anyone wishing to send flowers is encouraged to instead consider making a donation in his name to the MIT economics department. A memorial in his honor will be held later this year.