NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Adam Storeygard

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Working Papers

July 2009Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space
with J. Vernon Henderson, David N. Weil: w15199
GDP growth is often measured poorly for countries and rarely measured at all for cities or subnational regions. We propose a readily available proxy: satellite data on lights at night. We develop a statistical framework that uses lights growth to augment existing income growth measures, under the assumption that measurement error in using observed light as an indicator of income is uncorrelated with measurement error in national income accounts. For countries with good national income accounts data, information on growth of lights is of marginal value in estimating the true growth rate of income, while for countries with the worst national income accounts, the optimal estimate of true income growth is a composite with roughly equal weights. Among poor-data countries, our new estimate of av...

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