In Memoriam: Prof. John Quigley – Leading Scholar of Housing Markets, Energy Efficient Buildings, Homelessness, and Racial Discrimination

John M. Quigley, a leading scholar of housing markets, local public finance, energy efficient buildings, homelessness, and racial discrimination in housing, passed away at a Berkeley, Calif. hospital on Saturday (May 12).  He was 70.

Quigley was a faculty member of the Haas School’s Real Estate Group, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and the UC Berkeley Department of Economics. The I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor of Affordable Housing and Urban Policy, he was a campus leader, an inspirational mentor, and a leading figure in urban economics and housing policy. Since 1999 Quigley served as director of the Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, which is administered by Goldman School of Public Policy and associated with the Haas School's Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics.

During his career Quigley produced 14 books and more than 150 scholarly articles.   Quigley excelled at finding clever ways to use empirical data about housing and urban areas to answer important public policy questions such as the macro-economic impact of rising housing prices on consumption behavior, the impact of segregation on African Americans’ opportunities to accumulate wealth through investment in housing,  the effect of governmental and voluntary energy standards on energy efficiency and the value of buildings, and the relationship between housing markets and homelessness.  He combined boundless energy with an infectious laugh, which he often followed with a sharp intellectual insight.  When Quigley saw an issue that was important he immersed himself in research to figure it out.

In the 1970s, Quigley showed, with John F. Kain, that racial segregation not only ghettoized black families, it also reduced their chances of developing savings through home ownership.  In later work, Quigley went on to show how segregation reduced job opportunities for minority youth.   Kain and Quigley also pioneered the quantitative measurement of housing quality.  Their work made it possible to study housing markets where the basic commodity, “housing,” is a bundle of structural and neighborhood characteristics that cannot be completely captured by one number such as the square footage of a home.   In their 1975 book, Housing Markets and Racial Discrimination they demonstrated that statistical tools could be used effectively to value housing attributes and to control for differences in them across space and over time.   Using these techniques, they showed that in many cities blacks paid substantially more than whites for comparable housing. 

In the 1980s, Quigley began to study how government building regulations and voluntary energy standards affected energy efficiency in residential and commercial real estate.  In recent work he showed that buildings complying with voluntary Energy Star or LEED standards receive higher rents and higher selling prices—partially because of their energy savings but also because of intangible effects of the label itself due to beliefs about improved worker productivity and improved corporate image from “green” buildings.  

In the 1990s, Quigley turned to the study of homelessness.  Most scholars focused on the personal characteristics, the mental and physical disabilities and substance abuse problems, of the chronically homeless, but with co-authors Steve Raphael and Gene Smolensky, Quigley showed how housing markets, especially those with limited supplies of low quality and inexpensive rental housing, were part of the problem.  In these markets, even the lowest priced housing was often too expensive for those in extreme poverty, and small reductions in its supply due to higher government housing standards or demolition greatly elevated the risk of homelessness. 

Quigley also made fundamental contributions to the study of housing markets.  A highly influential and prescient 2001 article with Karl Case and Robert Shiller anticipated the 2001-2006 economic expansion by showing that increases in housing wealth, just like increases in stock market wealth, increased consumer spending and fueled macro-economic growth.    In recent years when many questions arose about the efficacy of mortgage markets, Quigley wrote about how better government policy and mortgage products could protect homeowners.

Quigley also investigated the impact of regulations on housing prices, the economics of refuse collection, how university decentralization stimulated regional economies, the impact of rent control, public support for congestion pricing, the economics of rebuilding cities after disasters, and many other topics. 

One other theme ran through Quigley’s life and research: his knowledge and love of Sweden.  His first publication appeared in the Swedish Journal of Economics in 1966.  He would go on to write many articles on all aspects of the Swedish economy.  He was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences in 2006, and he received an honorary degree from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology in 2007. 

Quigley’s wide-ranging and prolific scholarship was matched by his generous teaching and mentoring.  He served as a committee member for over one hundred PhD dissertations during his career, chairing twenty-six since 1990.   His was noted for his devotion to his students, his exceptionally high standards and expectations, his wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, his availability, his quick turn-around of manuscripts and papers, his generosity and humor, and his ability to get graduate students to perform at levels beyond what they thought possible by treating them as peers and partners.  His students have positions in universities, research institutes, and governmental agencies around the world.

Quigley was also a leader in service to the university and his profession. He was editor in chief of Regional Science and Urban Economics from 1986 to 2003, and he served on over two dozen editorial boards for scholarly journals during his career.  He advised over twenty research and governmental agencies including the World Bank, General Accounting Office, Urban Institute, Federal Home Loan Bank Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and institutions in Indonesia, Hungary, Germany, Sweden, and China.  Quigley was chair of the Department of Economics from 1992 to 1995, chair of the Berkeley Division of the Senate of the University of California from 1996 to 1997, and interim dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy in 2008.   He was elected a fellow of the Homer Hoyt Institute in 1992 and the Regional Science Association in 2004.  He was president of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association from 1996 to 1998, president of the Western Regional Science Association from 1998 to 2000, and president of the North American Regional Science Council from 2009 to 2010.

Quigley was born in New York, New York, in 1942.  He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with distinction in 1964, and he worked as an econometrician at the Pentagon from 1964 to 1968, leaving the Air Force with the rank of captain and an Air Force Commendation Medal in 1968.  He earned his doctorate from Harvard University in 1971 and taught at Yale University from 1972 until he joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley in 1979.

He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Mary Curran; and four children, Sam of San Francisco, Jane-Claire of New York, and Johanna and Benjamin of Stockholm, Sweden.

A memorial service for Quigley will be held June 9 in the afternoon at the UC Berkeley Alumni House. More details will be provided as they become available.

This obituary was written by John Quigley’s UC Berkeley colleagues, primarily Henry Brady, dean of the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy.