Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space
AbstractGDP growth is often measured poorly for countries and rarely measured at all for cities or subnational regions. We propose a readily available proxy: satellite data on lights at night. We develop a statistical framework that uses lights growth to augment existing income growth measures, under the assumption that measurement error in using observed light as an indicator of income is uncorrelated with measurement error in national income accounts. For countries with good national income accounts data, information on growth of lights is of marginal value in estimating the true growth rate of income, while for countries with the worst national income accounts, the optimal estimate of true income growth is a composite with roughly equal weights. Among poor-data countries, our new estimate of average annual growth differs by as much as 3 percentage points from official data. Lights data also allow for measurement of income growth in sub- and supranational regions. As an application, we examine growth in Sub Saharan African regions over the last 17 years. We find that real incomes in non-coastal areas have grown faster by 1/3 of an annual percentage point than coastal areas; non-malarial areas have grown faster than malarial ones by 1/3 to 2/3 annual percent points; and primate city regions have grown no faster than hinterland areas. Such applications point toward a research program in which “empirical growth” need no longer be synonymous with “national income accounts.”
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15199.
Date of creation: Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Other versions of this item:
- E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
- O47 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Measurement of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
- Q1 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture
- R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-AGR-2009-08-02 (Agricultural Economics)
- NEP-ALL-2009-08-02 (All new papers)
- NEP-EFF-2009-08-02 (Efficiency & Productivity)
- NEP-GEO-2009-08-02 (Economic Geography)
- NEP-URE-2009-08-02 (Urban & Real Estate Economics)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Brueckner, Jan K, 1990. "Analyzing Third World Urbanization: A Model with Empirical Evidence," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(3), pages 587-610, April.
- Sharon Maccini & Dean Yang, 2009.
"Under the Weather: Health, Schooling, and Economic Consequences of Early-Life Rainfall,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 1006-26, June.
- Sharon L. Maccini & Dean Yang, 2008. "Under the Weather: Health, Schooling, and Economic Consequences of Early-Life Rainfall," NBER Working Papers 14031, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Kogel, Tomas & Prskawetz, Alexia, 2001.
" Agricultural Productivity Growth and Escape from the Malthusian Trap,"
Journal of Economic Growth,
Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 337-57, December.
- Fürnkranz-Prskawetz, Alexia & Kögel, Tomas, 2000. "Agricultural Productivity Growth and Escape from the Malthusian Trap," CEPR Discussion Papers 2485, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Tomas Kögel & Alexia Prskawetz, 2000. "Agricultural productivity growth and escape from the Malthusian trap," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2000-002, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
- Edward L. Glaeser & Albert Saiz, 2003.
"The Rise of the Skilled City,"
NBER Working Papers
10191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Edward L. Glaeser & Albert Saiz, 2003. "The Rise of the Skilled City," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2025, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Edward L. Glaeser & Albert Saiz, 2003. "The rise of the skilled city," Working Papers 04-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
- Simon Johnson & William Larson & Chris Papageorgiou & Arvind Subramanian, 2009.
"Is Newer Better? Penn World Table Revisions and Their Impact on Growth Estimates,"
NBER Working Papers
15455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Johnson, Simon & Larson, William & Papageorgiou, Chris & Subramanian, Arvind, 2013. "Is newer better? Penn World Table Revisions and their impact on growth estimates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 255-274.
- Simon Johnson & William Larson & Chris Papageorgiou & Arvind Subramanian, 2009. "Is Newer Better? Penn World Table Revisions and Their Impact on Growth Estimates," Working Papers 191, Center for Global Development.
- Richard Tiffin & Xavier Irz, 2006. "Is agriculture the engine of growth?," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 35(1), pages 79-89, 07.
- Martin Browning & Thomas Crossley, 2009.
"Are Two Cheap, Noisy Measures Better Than One Expensive, Accurate One?,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 99-103, May.
- Martin Browning & Thomas Crossley, 2009. "Are two cheap, noisy measures better than one expensive, accurate one?," IFS Working Papers W09/01, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
- Krugman, Paul, 1991.
"Increasing Returns and Economic Geography,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 483-99, June.
- Daniel da Mata & Uwe Deichmann & J. Vernon Henderson & Somik V. Lall & Hyoung G. Wang, 2005.
"Determinants of City Growth in Brazil,"
1112, Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA.
- Da Mata, Daniel & Deichmann, Uwe & Henderson, J. Vernon & Lall, Somik V. & Wang, Hyoung Gun, 2005. "Determinants of city growth in Brazil," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3723, The World Bank.
- Daniel da Mata & U. Deichmann & J. Vernon Henderson & Somik V. Lall & H.G. Wang, 2005. "Determinants of City Growth in Brazil," NBER Working Papers 11585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Alan B. Krueger & Mikael Lindahl, 2000.
"Education for Growth: Why and For Whom?,"
NBER Working Papers
7591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- World Bank, 2005. "Managing Agricultural Production Risk : Innovations in Developing Countries," World Bank Other Operational Studies 8797, The World Bank.
- Angus Deaton & Alan Heston, 2010.
"Understanding PPPs and PPP-Based National Accounts,"
American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics,
American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 1-35, October.
- Angus Deaton & Alan Heston, 2008. "Understanding PPPs and PPP-based national accounts," Working Papers 1120, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
- Angus Deaton & Alan Heston, 2008. "Understanding PPPs and PPP-based national accounts," NBER Working Papers 14499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Angus Deaton & Alan Heston, 2009. "Understanding PPPs and PPP-based national accounts," Working Papers 1186, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
- Hansen, Christian B., 2007. "Generalized least squares inference in panel and multilevel models with serial correlation and fixed effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 670-694, October.
- Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Kallal, Hedi D. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1992.
"Growth in Cities,"
3451309, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Nuxoll, Daniel A, 1994. "Differences in Relative Prices and International Differences in Growth Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1423-36, December.
- Doll, Christopher N.H. & Muller, Jan-Peter & Morley, Jeremy G., 2006. "Mapping regional economic activity from night-time light satellite imagery," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 75-92, April.
- Yong Suk Lee & Andrew D. Foster, 2013. "Staffing Subsidies and the Quality of Care in Nursing Homes," Department of Economics Working Papers 2013-16, Department of Economics, Williams College.
- William Larson & Chris Papageorgiou & Arvind Subramania & Simon Johnson, 2009. "Is Newer Better? Penn World Table Revisions and the Growth Literature," 2009 Meeting Papers 858, Society for Economic Dynamics.
- International Monetary Fund, 2006. "Jamaica: Selected Issues," IMF Staff Country Reports 06/157, International Monetary Fund.
- John W. Dawson & Joseph P. Dejuan & John J. Seater & E. Frank Stephenson, 2001. "Economic information versus quality variation in cross-country data," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(4), pages 988-1009, November.
- Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 1999. "A Theory of Urban Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 252-284, April.
- Sutton, Paul C. & Costanza, Robert, 2002. "Global estimates of market and non-market values derived from nighttime satellite imagery, land cover, and ecosystem service valuation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 509-527, June.
- Edward Miguel & Shanker Satyanath & Ernest Sergenti, 2004. "Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 725-753, August.
- Xavier Irz & Terry Roe, 2005. "Seeds of growth? Agricultural productivity and the transitional dynamics of the Ramsey model," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 32(2), pages 143-165, June.
- Chun-Chung Au & J. Vernon Henderson, 2006. "Are Chinese Cities Too Small?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 549-576.
Blog mentionsAs found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page. reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.