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John Gibson (), Susan Olivia and Geua Boe‐Gibson
Authors registered in the RePEc Author Service: Geua Boe-Gibson ()

Journal of Economic Surveys, 2020, vol. 34, issue 5, 955-980

Abstract: Night lights, as detected by satellites, are increasingly used by economists, typically as a proxy for economic activity. The growing popularity of these data reflects either the absence, or the presumed inaccuracy, of more conventional economic statistics, like national or regional GDP. Further growth in use of night lights is likely, as they have been included in the AidData geoquery tool for providing subnational data, and in geographic data that the Demographic and Health Survey links to anonymized survey enumeration areas. Yet, this ease of obtaining night lights data may lead to inappropriate use, if users fail to recognize that most of the satellites providing these data were not designed to assist economists, and have features that may threaten validity of analyses based on these data, especially for temporal comparisons, and for small and rural areas. In this paper, we review sources of satellite data on night lights, discuss issues with these data, and survey some of their uses in economics.

Date: 2020
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Working Paper: Night Lights in Economics: Sources and Uses (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Night lights in economics: Sources and uses (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Night Lights in Economics: Sources and Uses (2020) Downloads
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