Ben-chieh Liu

Ben-chieh Liu. (Family photo)

An economist and longtime professor at Chicago State University, Ben-chieh Liu conducted groundbreaking research into the concept of quality of life.

Mr. Liu, 75, died Friday, June 13, in his Lisle home after a brief illness, his family said.

Through studies conducted at the Midwest Research Institute during the 1970s, Mr. Liu rated American cities according to various indicators and came up with what is now an often-copied list of the "10 Best Places to Live."

While cities not on the list might have taken issue with his research, the Eugene Register-Guard newspaper took tongue-in-cheek aim at Mr. Liu in its Oct. 12, 1975, edition after he rated the Portland-Eugene area as the best place in the country to live.

Under the headline "Stick it to Ben Liu," the newspaper published an illustration of Mr. Liu's face on a dart board. "Oregonians," the paper wrote, "aren't the types to quietly suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous flattery."

"The point of the article was to get people to ignore the rating, because they feared everyone would want to move there," said Mr. Liu's son, Roger. "That's the last thing they wanted."

Mr. Liu was the author of more than 100 articles and published several books, including "Quality of Life Indicators in U.S. Metropolitan Areas" in 1976 and "Energy, Income & the Quality of Life Management in U.S.A." in 1988.

"What made his research into quality of life so extraordinary is that he approached it so scientifically," said Jesse Wang, chairman of the mathematics department at Chicago State. "He used quantitative methods in his work, where prior research in this field was much more subjective, more opinion-based."

In recent years, Mr. Liu extended his research on quality of life into wealth distribution in different parts of the world.

"He was internationally known as a pioneer in the research on quality of life," said Jen-Chi Cheng, chair of the economics department at Wichita State University and secretary-treasurer of the Chinese Economic Association in North America, of which Mr. Liu was also a member and past president.

"He published extensively on a subject that has helped us understand the meaning of our life, and the reasons for why and how one group of people is happier than another group."

Mr. Liu was also a sought-after expert on applied economics and statistical research in the areas of energy, environment and human resources management.

"Over the past 30 years, his research has become a prototype for researching for many in the younger generation," Cheng said.

Born in China, Mr. Liu was 10 when he fled with his family to Taiwan to escape the Chinese revolution. He graduated with a degree in economics from National Taiwan University, and in 1963 he went to Canada and received a master's degree in economics from Memorial University in Newfoundland.

He came to the United States and lived in Vancouver, Wash., before moving to Missouri, where he became a principal economist at the Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City in 1970. During that time, he also received a master's and doctoral degree in economics from Washington University in St. Louis. His doctoral thesis was on the econometric study of regional growth and local government finance.

Mr. Liu moved to Lisle in 1980 to head a five-year research project at Argonne National Laboratory on the economic effects on regions after devastating earthquakes. In 1985 he joined the faculty at Chicago State as a full-time professor in the economics department, where he remained until about a month ago, when his health began to fail.

During his tenure at Chicago State, Mr. Liu was a visiting professor at National Taiwan, a Fulbright professor at the Management Development Institute and Delhi University in India and Chung Yuan Christian University in Taiwan, and a commissioner of the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Services.

"He practiced what he preached," said his son Milton. "He did a lot with us as kids growing up, and any time he may have missed he more than made up for with his grandchildren."

Over the course of his career, Mr. Liu also served as a consultant to the United Nations and the National Science Foundation and was president of Liu and Associates Inc., a private consulting firm.

He was a past president of the Chinese Academic and Professional Association and the Chinese Economic Association in North America and was the founding president of the Chinese American Professors Association.

"For him, quality of life was focused on family," said his other son, Roger. "He also felt people benefited greatly from a good education and career. His advice: 'Keep working for as long as you can.'"

Other survivors include his wife of 50 years, Jill; a daughter, Tina Celek; and three grandchildren.

Services were held.