Richard started out studying economic history at the London School of Economics. After publishing Poverty and Progress: an ecological model of economic development (1973) he changed subjects and trained in epidemiology. His initial research on the widening social class differences in health (later known as ‘health inequalities’) led him to ask the UK Secretary of State for Social Services to set up the “urgent government inquiry” which in 1980 produced the Black Report which led to a rapid growth of international interest in health inequalities. Since then he has played a formative role in international research on the societal effects of the size of the income gap between rich and poor and his books and papers have helped to establish that societies with bigger income differences between rich and poor have a much higher prevalence of a wide range of health and social problems.
He is now Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham Medical School, Honorary Professor at University College London and Visiting Professor at the University of York. With Kate Pickett he was awarded the 2013 Solidar Silver Rose Prize. Together they founded The Equality Trust (with support from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust) and wrote The Spirit Level, a best seller and chosen as one of the Top Ten Books of the Decade by the New Statesman; the book also won the 2011 Political Studies Association Publication of the Year Award, and the 2010 Bristol Festival of Ideas Prize. It is now available in 23 languages and is the basis of a new documentary feature film on inequality.