IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/lis/liswps/645.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Lights, Camera,... Income! Estimating Poverty Using National Accounts, Survey Means and Lights

Author

Listed:
  • Maxim Pinkovskiy
  • Xavier Sala-i-Martin

Abstract

In this paper we try to understand whether national accounts GDP per capita or survey mean income or consumption better proxy for true income per capita. We propose a data-driven method to assess the relative quality of GDP per capita versus survey means by comparing the evolution of each series to the evolution of satellite-recorded nighttime lights. Our main assumption, which is robust to a variety of specification checks, is that the measurement error in nighttime lights is unrelated to the measurement errors in either national accounts or survey means. We obtain estimates of weights on national accounts and survey means in an optimal proxy for true income; these weights are very large for national accounts and very modest for survey means. We conclusively reject the null hypothesis that the optimal weight on surveys is greater than the optimal weight on national accounts, and we generally fail to reject the null hypothesis that the optimal weight on surveys is zero. Using the estimated optimal weights, we compute estimates of true income per capita and $1/day poverty rates for the developing world and its regions. We get poverty estimates that are substantially lower and fall substantially faster than those of Chen and Ravallion (2010) or of the survey-based poverty literature more generally. Our result is mainly driven by the finding that economic growth has been higher in poor countries than the surveys suggest. We also find that developing world living standards have grown faster, and the world income distribution has become more equal than would be suggested by surveys alone. Additionally, we provide evidence that national accounts are good indicators of desirable outcomes for the poor (such as longer life expectancy, better education and access to safe water), and we show that surveys appear to perform worse in developing countries that are richer and that are growing faster.

Suggested Citation

  • Maxim Pinkovskiy & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2015. "Lights, Camera,... Income! Estimating Poverty Using National Accounts, Survey Means and Lights," LIS Working papers 645, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
  • Handle: RePEc:lis:liswps:645
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.lisdatacenter.org/wps/liswps/645.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. ,, 2001. "Problems And Solutions," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(6), pages 1157-1160, December.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2016. "Ethnic Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(2), pages 428-488.
    3. repec:pri:rpdevs:deaton_price_indexes_inequality_and_the_measurement_of_world_poverty_aer. is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Andrei Shleifer & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Rafael La Porta, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 285-332, June.
    5. Angus Deaton, 2005. "Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 1-19, February.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    7. Xi Chen & William D. Nordhaus, 2010. "The Value of Luminosity Data as a Proxy for Economic Statistics," NBER Working Papers 16317, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Robert J. Barro, 1991. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 407-443.
    9. Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2006. "The World Distribution of Income: Falling Poverty and … Convergence, Period," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 351-397.
    10. Shaohua Chen & Martin Ravallion, 2004. "How Have the World's Poorest Fared since the Early 1980s?," The World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 19(2), pages 141-169.
    11. Christoph Lakner & Branko Milanovic, 2016. "Global Income Distribution: From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to the Great Recession," The World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 30(2), pages 203-232.
    12. Antonio Ciccone & Marek Jarociński, 2010. "Determinants of Economic Growth: Will Data Tell?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 222-246, October.
    13. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Price Indexes, Inequality, and the Measurement of World Poverty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 5-34, March.
    14. Shatakshee Dhongde & Camelia Minoiu, 2010. "Global poverty estimates: Present and future," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 13310, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    15. Pinkovskiy, Maxim L., 2013. "World welfare is rising: Estimation using nonparametric bounds on welfare measures," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 176-195.
    16. Angus Deaton, 2005. "ERRATUM: Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 395-395, May.
    17. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson & Pierre Yared, 2008. "Income and Democracy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 808-842, June.
    18. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1998. "Law and Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1113-1155, December.
    19. Shaohua Chien & Martin Ravallion, 2001. "How did the world's poorest fare in the 1990s?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 47(3), pages 283-300, September.
    20. 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.
    21. Elias Papaioannou, 2014. "National Institutions and Subnational Development in Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 151-213.
    22. Alwyn Young, 2012. "The African Growth Miracle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(4), pages 696-739.
    23. N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer & David N. Weil, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-437.
    24. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    25. Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2001. "The disturbing 'rise' of global income inequality," Economics Working Papers 616, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Apr 2002.
    26. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2013. "Pre‐Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 113-152, January.
    27. Alwyn Young, 2012. "The African Growth Miracle," NBER Working Papers 18490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    28. François Bourguignon & Christian Morrisson, 2002. "Inequality Among World Citizens: 1820-1992," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 727-744, September.
    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. Surjit Bhalla, 2002. "Imagine There's No Country: Poverty, Inequality, and Growth in the Era of Globalization," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 348, October.
    31. Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2002. "The world distribution of income (estimated from individual country distributions)," Economics Working Papers 615, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 2002.
    32. 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.
    33. Anton Korinek & Johan Mistiaen & Martin Ravallion, 2006. "Survey nonresponse and the distribution of income," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 4(1), pages 33-55, April.
    34. Maxim Pinkovskiy & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2014. "Africa is on time," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(3), pages 311-338, September.
    35. Shaohua Chen & Martin Ravallion, 2010. "The Developing World is Poorer than We Thought, But No Less Successful in the Fight Against Poverty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1577-1625.
    36. Alesina, Alberto & Michalopoulos, Stelios & Papaioannou, Elias, 2013. "Ethnic Inequality," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 155, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    37. repec:pri:rpdevs:presidential%20address%2017january%202010%20all.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    38. World Bank, 2013. "World Development Indicators 2013," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 13191, November.
    39. ,, 2001. "Problems And Solutions," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(5), pages 1025-1031, October.
    40. Maxim Pinkovskiy & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2009. "Parametric Estimations of the World Distribution of Income," NBER Working Papers 15433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    41. Facundo Alvaredo & Leonardo Gasparini, 2013. "Recent Trends in Inequality and Poverty in Developing Countries," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0151, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Bergs, Rolf, 2016. "Exploring the Spatial Economy by Night," MPRA Paper 69764, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 28 Feb 2016.
    2. Fernando Antonio Ignacio González & María Emma Santos & Juan Cruz Fernández, 2021. "¿Discontinuidades o Continuidades Políticas? Explorando sus Efectos sobre el Desempeño Económico: El Caso de la Intervención Federal en Santiago del Estero," Working Papers 100, Red Nacional de Investigadores en Economía (RedNIE).

    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. Maxim L. Pinkovskiy & Xavier X. Sala-i-Martin, 2014. "Lights, camera,...income! Estimating poverty using national accounts, survey means, and lights," Staff Reports 669, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    2. Pinkovskiy, Maxim L., 2013. "World welfare is rising: Estimation using nonparametric bounds on welfare measures," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 176-195.
    3. Dhongde, Shatakshee & Minoiu, Camelia, 2013. "Global Poverty Estimates: A Sensitivity Analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 1-13.
    4. Facundo Alvaredo & Leonardo Gasparini, 2013. "Recent Trends in Inequality and Poverty in Developing Countries," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0151, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
    5. Jones, C.I., 2016. "The Facts of Economic Growth," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & Harald Uhlig (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 3-69, Elsevier.
    6. Maxim Pinkovskiy & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2014. "Africa is on time," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(3), pages 311-338, September.
    7. Moatsos Michail, 2016. "Global Absolute Poverty: Behind the Veil of Dollars," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 1-28, December.
    8. Jordá, Vanesa & Niño-Zarazúa, Miguel, 2019. "Global inequality: How large is the effect of top incomes?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 1-1.
    9. Ms. Camelia Minoiu & Sanjay Reddy, 2008. "Kernel Density Estimation Based on Grouped Data: The Case of Poverty Assessment," IMF Working Papers 2008/183, International Monetary Fund.
    10. Edward, Peter & Sumner, Andy, 2014. "Estimating the Scale and Geography of Global Poverty Now and in the Future: How Much Difference Do Method and Assumptions Make?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 67-82.
    11. Maxim L. Pinkovskiy, 2017. "Growth discontinuities at borders," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 145-192, June.
    12. Moatsos, Michail, 2020. "Global Absolute Poverty: The Evolution of its Measurement," EconStor Preprints 216642, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    13. Mussa, Richard, 2017. "To Err is Human: Inconsistencies in Food Conversion Factors and Inequality in Malawi," MPRA Paper 75981, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Vladimir Hlasny & Paolo Verme, 2022. "The Impact of Top Incomes Biases on the Measurement of Inequality in the United States," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 84(4), pages 749-788, August.
    15. 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.
    16. Cockburn, John & Duclos, Jean-Yves & Zabsonré, Agnès, 2014. "Is global social welfare increasing? A critical-level enquiry," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 151-162.
    17. Michalopoulos, Stelios & Papaioannou, Elias, 2010. "Divide and Rule or the Rule of the Divided? Evidence from Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers 8088, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    18. Stimpfle, Alexander & Stadelmann, David, 2015. "The Impact of Fundamental Development Factors on Different Income Groups: International Evidence," VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113128, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    19. Nonso Obikili, 2015. "An Examination of Subnational Growth in Nigeria: 1999-2012," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 83(3), pages 335-356, September.
    20. Maxim Pinkovskiy & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2018. "Shining a Light on Purchasing Power Parities," NBER Working Papers 24419, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    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:lis:liswps:645. 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: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/lisprlu.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 bibliographic 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Piotr Paradowski (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/lisprlu.html .

    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.