IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/iso/educat/0165.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Proxying Economic Activity with Daytime Satellite Imagery: Filling Data Gaps Across Time and Space

Author

Listed:
  • Patrick Lehnert
  • Michael Niederberger
  • Uschi Backes-Gellner

Abstract

This paper develops a novel procedure for proxying economic activity across time periods and spatial units, for which other data is not available. In developing this proxy, we apply machine-learning techniques to a unique historical time series of daytime satellite imagery dating back to 1984. Compared to night lights intensity, another satellite-based proxy that economists commonly use, our proxy has the advantages of more precisely predicting economic activity over a longer time series and at smaller regional levels. We demonstrate the proxy’s usefulness for the example of Germany, where data on economic activity is otherwise unavailable, in particular for the regions belonging to the former German Democratic Republic before reunification. However, our procedure is generalizable to other regions and countries alike, and thus yields great potential for analyzing historical developments, evaluating local policy reforms, and controlling for economic activity at highly disaggregated regional levels in econometric applications.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Lehnert & Michael Niederberger & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2020. "Proxying Economic Activity with Daytime Satellite Imagery: Filling Data Gaps Across Time and Space," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0165, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW), revised Oct 2020.
  • Handle: RePEc:iso:educat:0165
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://repec.business.uzh.ch/RePEc/iso/leadinghouse/0165_lhwpaper.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Dominic Rohner & Mathias Thoenig & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2013. "Seeds of distrust: conflict in Uganda," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 217-252, September.
    2. Elias Papaioannou, 2014. "National Institutions and Subnational Development in Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 151-213.
    3. Deng, Xiangzheng & Huang, Jikun & Rozelle, Scott & Uchida, Emi, 2008. "Growth, population and industrialization, and urban land expansion of China," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 96-115, January.
    4. Toman Barsbai & Hillel Rapoport & Andreas Steinmayr & Christoph Trebesch, 2017. "The Effect of Labor Migration on the Diffusion of Democracy: Evidence from a Former Soviet Republic," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 36-69, July.
    5. Michael D. König & Dominic Rohner & Mathias Thoenig & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2017. "Networks in Conflict: Theory and Evidence From the Great War of Africa," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 1093-1132, July.
    6. J Vernon Henderson & Tim Squires & Adam Storeygard & David Weil, 2018. "The Global Distribution of Economic Activity: Nature, History, and the Role of Trade1," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(1), pages 357-406.
    7. Charlotta Mellander & José Lobo & Kevin Stolarick & Zara Matheson, 2015. "Night-Time Light Data: A Good Proxy Measure for Economic Activity?," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 10(10), pages 1-18, October.
    8. Chao Fu & Jesse Gregory, 2019. "Estimation of an Equilibrium Model With Externalities: Post‐Disaster Neighborhood Rebuilding," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 87(2), pages 387-421, March.
    9. Anna Bruederle & Roland Hodler, 2018. "Nighttime lights as a proxy for human development at the local level," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(9), pages 1-22, September.
    10. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2013. "Pre‐Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 113-152, January.
    11. Mariaflavia Harari & Eliana La Ferrara, 2018. "Conflict, Climate, and Cells: A Disaggregated Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 100(4), pages 594-608, October.
    12. Marcy Burchfield & Henry G. Overman & Diego Puga & Matthew A. Turner, 2006. "Causes of Sprawl: A Portrait from Space," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 587-633.
    13. Jonathan I. Dingel & Antonio Miscio & Donald R. Davis, 2019. "Cities, Lights, and Skills in Developing Economies," NBER Working Papers 25678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Joyce J. Chen & Valerie Mueller & Yuanyuan Jia & Steven Kuo-Hsin Tseng, 2017. "Validating Migration Responses to Flooding Using Satellite and Vital Registration Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 441-445, May.
    15. Markus Brückner & Antonio Ciccone, 2011. "Rain and the Democratic Window of Opportunity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 923-947, May.
    16. Morris A. Davis & Jonas D. M. Fisher & Toni M. Whited, 2014. "Macroeconomic Implications of Agglomeration," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(2), pages 731-764, March.
    17. Goldblatt,Ran Philip & Heilmann,Kilian Tobias & Vaizman,Yonatan, 2019. "Can Medium-Resolution Satellite Imagery Measure Economic Activity at Small Geographies ? Evidence from Landsat in Vietnam," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9088, The World Bank.
    18. Holl, Adelheid, 2004. "Manufacturing location and impacts of road transport infrastructure: empirical evidence from Spain," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 341-363, May.
    19. Watmough, Gary R. & Atkinson, Peter M. & Saikia, Arupjyoti & Hutton, Craig W., 2016. "Understanding the Evidence Base for Poverty–Environment Relationships using Remotely Sensed Satellite Data: An Example from Assam, India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 188-203.
    20. Roland Hodler & Paul A. Raschky, 2014. "Regional Favoritism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(2), pages 995-1033.
    21. Thiemo Fetzer & Oliver Pardo & Amar Shanghavi, 2018. "More than an urban legend: the short- and long-run effects of unplanned fertility shocks," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 31(4), pages 1125-1176, October.
    22. Dave Donaldson & Adam Storeygard, 2016. "The View from Above: Applications of Satellite Data in Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(4), pages 171-198, Fall.
    23. Lee, Yong Suk, 2018. "International isolation and regional inequality: Evidence from sanctions on North Korea," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 34-51.
    24. Alain de Janvry & Kyle Emerick & Marco Gonzalez-Navarro & Elisabeth Sadoulet, 2015. "Delinking Land Rights from Land Use: Certification and Migration in Mexico," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(10), pages 3125-3149, October.
    25. 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.
    26. Samuel Bazzi & Arya Gaduh & Alexander D. Rothenberg & Maisy Wong, 2016. "Skill Transferability, Migration, and Development: Evidence from Population Resettlement in Indonesia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(9), pages 2658-2698, September.
    27. J. Vernon Henderson & Adam Storeygard & David N. Weil, 2012. "Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 994-1028, April.
    28. Rajendra Kulkarni & Kingsley Haynes & Roger Stough & James Riggle, 2011. "Light based growth indicator (LBGI): exploratory analysis of developing a proxy for local economic growth based on night lights," Regional Science Policy & Practice, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(2), pages 101-113, June.
    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. Matthew A. Turner & Andrew Haughwout & Wilbert van der Klaauw, 2014. "Land Use Regulation and Welfare," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(4), pages 1341-1403, July.
    31. Keola, Souknilanh & Andersson, Magnus & Hall, Ola, 2015. "Monitoring Economic Development from Space: Using Nighttime Light and Land Cover Data to Measure Economic Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 322-334.
    32. Patrick Lehnert & Curdin Pfister & Dietmar Harhoff & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2020. "Knowledge Complementarities and Patenting: Do New Universities of Applied Sciences Foster Regional Innovation?," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0164, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    33. Andrew D. Foster & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2003. "Economic Growth and the Rise of Forests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(2), pages 601-637.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Felbermayr, Gabriel & Gröschl, Jasmin & Sanders, Mark & Schippers, Vincent & Steinwachs, Thomas, 2018. "Shedding Light on the Spatial Diffusion of Disasters," VfS Annual Conference 2018 (Freiburg, Breisgau): Digital Economy 181556, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. Marco Manacorda & Andrea Tesei, 2020. "Liberation Technology: Mobile Phones and Political Mobilization in Africa," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 88(2), pages 533-567, March.
    3. De Luca, Giacomo & Hodler, Roland & Raschky, Paul A. & Valsecchi, Michele, 2018. "Ethnic favoritism: An axiom of politics?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 115-129.
    4. Lee, Yong Suk, 2018. "International isolation and regional inequality: Evidence from sanctions on North Korea," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 34-51.
    5. John Gibson & Susan Olivia & Geua Boe‐Gibson, 2020. "Night Lights In Economics: Sources And Uses," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(5), pages 955-980, December.
    6. Richard Bluhm & Melanie Krause, 2018. "Top Lights - Bright Cities and their Contribution to Economic Development," CESifo Working Paper Series 7411, CESifo.
    7. Lionel Roger, 2018. "Blinded by the light? Heterogeneity in the luminosity-growth nexus and the African growth miracle," Discussion Papers 2018-04, University of Nottingham, CREDIT.
    8. Hodler, Roland & Raschky, Paul A., 2014. "Economic shocks and civil conflict at the regional level," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 124(3), pages 530-533.
    9. Thomas Steinwachs, 2019. "Eine Frage der Geographie: Räumliche Dimensionen von Handel, Migration und Wachstum," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 81, November.
    10. Kacprzyk, Andrzej & Kuchta, Zbigniew, 2020. "Shining a new light on the environmental Kuznets curve for CO2 emissions," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    11. Beyer,Robert Carl Michael & Franco Bedoya,Sebastian & Galdo,Virgilio, 2020. "Examining the Economic Impact of COVID-19 in India through Daily Electricity Consumption and Nighttime Light Intensity," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9291, The World Bank.
    12. Prakash, Nishith & Rockmore, Marc & Uppal, Yogesh, 2019. "Do criminally accused politicians affect economic outcomes? Evidence from India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(C).
    13. Lessmann, Christian & Seidel, André, 2017. "Regional inequality, convergence, and its determinants – A view from outer space," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 110-132.
    14. Phoebe W. Ishak & Pierre-Guillaume Méon, 2020. "A resource-rich neighbor is a misfortune: The spatial distribution of the resource curse in Brazil," Working Papers CEB 20-001, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    15. Jaqueson K. Galimberti, 2020. "Forecasting GDP Growth from Outer Space," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 82(4), pages 697-722, August.
    16. Juan Jose Miranda & Oscar A. Ishizawa & Hongrui Zhang, 2020. "Understanding the Impact Dynamics of Windstorms on Short-Term Economic Activity from Night Lights in Central America," Economics of Disasters and Climate Change, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 657-698, October.
    17. Russ, Jason, 2020. "Water runoff and economic activity: The impact of water supply shocks on growth," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 101(C).
    18. Nguyen, Cuong & Noy, Ilan, 2018. "Measuring the impact of insurance on urban recovery with light: The 2011 New Zealand earthquake," Working Paper Series 6955, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    19. Axel Dreher & Steffen Lohmann, 2015. "Aid and Growth at the Regional Level," IMF Working Papers 2015/196, International Monetary Fund.
    20. Ahlerup, Pelle & Baskaran, Thushyanthan & Bigsten, Arne, 2017. "Regional development and national identity in sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 622-643.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iso:educat:0165. See general 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: (Sara Brunner). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/isuzhch.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.