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Illuminating Africa?

Tanner Regan, Giorgio Chiovelli, Stelios Michalopoulos and Elias Papaioannou

Working Papers from The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy

Abstract: Satellite images of nighttime lights are commonly used to proxy local economic conditions. Despite their popularity, there are concerns about how accurately they capture local development in low-income settings and different scales. We compile a yearly series of comparable nighttime lights for Africa from 1992 to 2020, considering key factors that affect accuracy and comparability over time: sensor quality, top coding, blooming, and, importantly, variations in satellite systems (DMPS and VIIRS) using an ensemble, machine learning, approach. The harmonized luminosity series outperforms the unadjusted series as a stronger predictor of local development, particularly over time and at higher spatial resolutions.

Keywords: Night Lights; Economic Development; Measurement; Africa (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E01 I32 O1 R1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 54 pages
Date: 2023-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr, nep-big, nep-dev, nep-geo and nep-ure
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2023-11

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