Top Lights: Bright cities and their contribution to economic development
Richard Bluhm and
Melanie Krause ()
No 2020-08, SoDa Laboratories Working Paper Series from Monash University, SoDa Laboratories
Tracking the development of cities in emerging economies is difficult with conventional data. Even the commonly-used satellite images of nighttime light intensity fail to capture the true brightness of larger cities. This paper shows that nighttime lights can be used as a reliable proxy for economic activity at the city level, provided they are first corrected for top-coding. We present a stylized model of urban luminosity and empirical evidence which both suggest that these â€˜top lightsâ€™ can be characterized by a Pareto distribution. We then propose a correction procedure which recovers the full distribution of city lights. Our results show that the brightest cities account for nearly a third of global economic activity. Applying this approach to cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, we find that primate cities are outgrowing secondary cities but are changing from within. Poorer neighborhoods are developing and sub-centers are emerging, with the side effect that Africaâ€™s cities are also becoming increasingly fragmented.
Keywords: Development; urban growth; night lights; top-coding; inequality (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O10 O18 R11 R12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-big, nep-geo, nep-gro and nep-ure
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Working Paper: Top Lights - Bright Cities and their Contribution to Economic Development (2018)
Working Paper: Top Lights: Bright cities and their contribution to economic development (2018)
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