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Night Lights in Economics: Sources and Uses

John Gibson (), Susan Olivia and Geua Boe-Gibson ()

No 2020-01, CSAE Working Paper Series from Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford

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 geo-query tool for providing sub-national data, and in geographic data that the Demographic and Health Survey links to anonymised 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.

Keywords: Density; Development DMSP Luminosity Night lights VIIRS (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O15 R12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-big and nep-geo
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Journal Article: 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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