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The Evolution of Built-up Areas in Ghana since 1975


  • Fafchamps,Marcel
  • Shilpi,Forhad J.


This paper uses high-resolution satellite data on the proportion of buildings in a 250x250 meter cell to study the evolution of human settlement in Ghana over a 40-year period. The analysis finds a strong increase in built-up area over time, mostly concentrated in the vicinity of roads, and also directly on the coast. There is strong evidence of agglomeration effects in the static sense -- buildup in one cell predicts buildup in a nearby cell -- and in a dynamic sense -- buildup in a cell predicts buildup in that cell later on, and an increase in buildup in nearby cells. These effects are strongest over a radius of 3 to 15 kilometers. No evidence is found that human settlements are spaced more or less equally over the landscape or along roads. By fitting a transition matrix to the data, this paper predicts a sharp increase in the proportion of the country that is densely built-up by the middle and end of the century, but there is no increase in the proportion of partially built-up locations.

Suggested Citation

  • Fafchamps,Marcel & Shilpi,Forhad J., 2020. "The Evolution of Built-up Areas in Ghana since 1975," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9314, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:9314

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dave Donaldson, 2018. "Railroads of the Raj: Estimating the Impact of Transportation Infrastructure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(4-5), pages 899-934, April.
    2. Hoyt Bleakley & Jeffrey Lin, 2012. "Portage and Path Dependence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(2), pages 587-644.
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    4. Gonzalez-Navarro, Marco & Turner, Matthew A., 2018. "Subways and urban growth: Evidence from earth," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 85-106.
    5. Hoyt Bleakley & Jeffrey Lin, 2010. "Portage: path dependence and increasing returns in U.S. history," Working Papers 10-27, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, revised 2010.
    6. Edward L. Glaeser & Sari Pekkala Kerr & William R. Kerr, 2015. "Entrepreneurship and Urban Growth: An Empirical Assessment with Historical Mines," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(2), pages 498-520, May.
    7. Benjamin Faber & Cecile Gaubert, 2019. "Tourism and Economic Development: Evidence from Mexico's Coastline," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(6), pages 2245-2293, June.
    8. Marco Gonzalez-Navarro & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2016. "Paving Streets for the Poor: Experimental Analysis of Infrastructure Effects," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(2), pages 254-267, May.
    9. 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.
    10. Marcel Fafchamps & Forhad Shilpi, 2005. "Cities and Specialisation: Evidence from South Asia," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(503), pages 477-504, April.
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    Hydrology; Transport Services; Food Security; International Trade and Trade Rules;

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