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The Value of Luminosity Data as a Proxy for Economic Statistics

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  • Xi Chen
  • William D. Nordhaus

Abstract

One of the pervasive issues in social and environmental research has been to improve the quality of socioeconomic data in developing countries. Because of the shortcoming of standard data sources, the present study examines luminosity (measures of nighttime lights) as a proxy for standard measures of output. The paper compares output and luminosity at the country levels and at the 1° x 1° grid-cell levels for the period 1992-2008. The results are that luminosity has very little value added for countries with high-quality statistical systems. However, it may be useful for countries with the lowest statistical grades, particularly for war-torn countries with no recent population or economic censuses. The results also indicate that luminosity has more value added for economic density estimates than for time-series growth rates.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16317.

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Date of creation: Aug 2010
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Publication status: published as Xi Chen and William Nordhaus, "Using luminosity data as a proxy for economic statistics," Proceeedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), May 24, 2011, 108(21): 8589-8594
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16317

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  1. Simon Kuznets, 1934. "National Income, 1929-1932," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn34-1, October.
  2. J. Vernon Henderson & Adam Storeygard & David N. Weil, 2012. "Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 994-1028, April.
  3. 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, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 509-527, June.
  4. 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.
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As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Luminosity as an indicator of economic activity
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2010-09-30 17:38:00
  2. Ritchie asks
    by Tim Worstall in Tim Worstall on 2010-10-01 09:47:40
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Cited by:
  1. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2011. "Divide and Rule or the Rule of the Divided? Evidence from Africa," NBER Working Papers 17184, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Dimico, Arcangelo, 2014. "Size Matters: The Effect of the Scramble for Africa on Informal Institutions and Development," QUCEH Working Paper Series 14-02, Queen's University Centre for Economic History, Queen's University Belfast.
  3. Michael Wurm & Hannes Taubenböck & Jan Goebel & Stefan Dech & Gert G. Wagner, 2010. "Menschen zählen aus dem All. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen von Satellitendaten zur Abschätzung der Bevölkerungsentwicklung und des Gebäudebestandes in deutschen Städten," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD) 155, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).

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