Arthur F. Raper, 79, a retired government official who was an authority on rural economics, died Friday at Fairfax Hospital after an apparent heart attack.

He came to Washington in 1942 and began a 10-year career with the Agriculture Department as a social science analyst with the Bureau of Agriculture Economics.

Dr. Raper made three trips to Japan after World War II as a consultant on agrarian reform for the Allied occupation forces. He also helped prepare a manual on rural life in the United States for foreign visitors, and a 1952 pamphlet on recent socio-economic trends in rural America.

In the early 1950s, he was a consultant and adviser to the International Cooperation Administration, serving in Southeast Asia and Iran, and later worked as an orientation and debriefing officer for the ICA until 1962.

Dr. Raper later served as an adviser to the Apkistan Academy for Rural Development before retiring in 1967.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he conducted weekly graduate seminars on community development at Catholic University here.

His publication included "Preface to Peasantry," published in 1936, and "Rural Taiwan - Problem and Promise," in 1953. He was a coauthor of the 1970 work, "Rural Development in Action: The Comprehensive Experiment in Comilla, East Pakistan."

Dr. Raper was reared on a farm in the Piedmont section of North Carolina. He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of North Carolina, a master's degree at Vanderbilt University, and a doctoral degree in sociology and rural economics at the University of North Carolina.

Before coming to Washington, he was a research assistant at the University of North Carolina, a research associate with the Carnegie Myrdal study of the American Negro, and worked for the Agriculture Department in North Carolina.

He is survived by his wife, Martha J., of the home in Oakton; three sons, Charles F., of West Hartford, Conn., A. Jarrell, of Richmond, and Harrison C. Roper, of Haverford, Pa.; a daughter, Margaret R. Hummon, of Athens, Ohio; a sister, Aubrey Zimmerman, of Winston-Salem, N.C.; two brothers, Dr. Kenneth B., of Madison, Wis., and Howard D., of Burlington, N.C., and 10 grandchildren. CAPTION: Picture, ARTHUR F. RAPER