Light & Economic Growth

Using luminosity data as a proxy for economic statistics


A pervasive issue in social and environmental research has been how to improve the quality of socioeconomic data in developing countries. Given the shortcomings of standard sources, the present study examines luminosity (measures of nighttime lights visible from space) as a proxy for standard measures of output (gross domestic product). We compare output and luminosity at the country level and at the 1° latitude × 1° longitude grid-cell level for the period 1992–2008. We find that luminosity has informational value for countries with low-quality statistical systems, particularly for those countries with no recent population or economic censuses.

via Using luminosity data as a proxy for economic statistics.


  1. ChiPaul says:

    Luminosity has illustrative value as well as informational value. A great example is the iconic satellite photo of North and South Korea at night. The contrast is striking.