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Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space

GDP growth is often measured poorly for countries and rarely measured at all for cities. We propose a readily available proxy: satellite data on lights at night. Our statistical framework uses light growth to supplement existing income growth measures. The framework is applied to countries with the lowest quality income data, resulting in estimates of growth that differ substantially from established estimates. We then consider a longstanding debate: do increases in local agricultural productivity increase city incomes? For African cities, we find that exogenous agricultural productivity shocks (high rainfall years) have substantial effects on local urban economic activity.

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Paper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2009-8.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2009-8
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912

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  1. 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.
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  9. 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.
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  13. Vernon Henderson & Adam Storeygard & David N. Weil, 2009. "Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space," Working Papers 2009-8, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  14. Alan B. Krueger & Mikael Lindahl, 2000. "Education for Growth: Why and For Whom?," NBER Working Papers 7591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
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  25. Henderson, Vernon, 2003. " The Urbanization Process and Economic Growth: The So-What Question," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 47-71, March.
  26. 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.
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  28. J. Vernon Henderson & Hyoung Gun Wang, 2005. "Aspects of the rural-urban transformation of countries," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 23-42, January.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. Good, David F., 1994. "The Economic Lag of Central and Eastern Europe: Income Estimates for the Habsburg Successor States, 1870–1910," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(04), pages 869-891, December.
  32. Foster, Andrew D. & Lee, Yong Suk, 2015. "Staffing subsidies and the quality of care in nursing homes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 133-147.
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